Ontario’s Occupational Health & Safety Act (OHSA)
Ontario’s Occupational Health & Safety Act (OHSA) came into force in October 1979. The main principle of the OHSA is that workers, supervisors and employers share the responsibility for health and safety in the workplace. The OHSA sets out the rights and duties of all workplace parties and it gives Ministry of Labour inspectors the authority to inspect the workplace to ensure compliance with the OHSA, and to investigate complaints, critical injuries and fatalities.
Until now, farming operations have been exempt from the OHSA. Since early 2004, the Ministry of Labour (MOL) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) have been working with the agricultural industry, through the Labour Issues Co-ordinating Committee (LICC), a coalition of about 20 agricultural commodity and farm organizations, to develop the appropriate application of the OHSA to farming operations.
Farming Operations to come under the OHSA on June 30, 2006. In June 2005, the government made a new regulation that will extend the OHSA to farming operations with paid workers. It came into effect on June 30, 2006. This means that the rights and duties for workers and employers outlined in the OHSA will apply; inspection and enforcement will apply; and both workers and employers will participate in workplace health and safety matters. Farming operations without paid workers will continue to be exempt from the OHSA.
OMAFRA and MOL are continuing to work with the Workplace Safety & Prevention Association and the agricultural industry to develop best practices to address specific hazards.
Under the OHSA, the duties of employers include providing information, instruction and supervision to workers; advising workers about hazards in the workplace; and notifying the MOL
of workplace fatalities and critical injuries. Employers with six or more regularly employed workers also have to develop an occupational health and safety policy and program.
Farm workers will have the right to participate in decisions about health and safety at the workplace, to know about workplace hazards, and to refuse unsafe work.