OH & S - Questions and Answers
Will the Occupational Health & Safety Act (OHSA) apply to all farms?
The OHSA will only apply to farms with paid workers. It will not apply to the self-employed farmer who does not have paid workers.
A farm owner/operator hires one person to help out at peak times, usually once or twice a year, for a few weeks at a time. Does the legislation apply?
The OHSA will apply whenever there is a paid worker on the farm, even if it is only for a short period of time. At these times, the owner/operator will have all the applicable responsibilities under the OHSA. It will not apply at those times of the year when there are no paid workers on the farm.
I don't have any employees but my children work on my farm during their summer holidays. I don't pay them a salary but I purchased a car for one and paid the other's university tuition. Does the OHSA apply?
If your children are not paid a salary or wages for their work, the MOL would not consider them to be "workers" for the purposes of the OHSA.
A husband and wife are self-employed farmers with no paid workers. They have incorporated their business for tax purposes. They each draw salaries from their company and receive T4 slips. Are they workers of the company for the purposes of the OHSA? Is such an operation covered by the OHSA?
MOL would consider the husband and wife to be self-employed and the OHSA would not apply to this operation just because it is incorporated and the owners collect a salary.
How much is it going to cost farmers to comply with the OHSA? Will the new legislation put farmers out of business?
For some employers there may be some costs related to compliance with the new requirements; however, from our recent discussions with the industry, many operators already appear to be doing what the law will require.
New requirements came into effect on June 20, 2006. The new requirements will help prevent workplace injuries and fatalities, and overall, should lead to cost savings for employers such as paying lower insurance premiums to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). Currently the WSIB estimates that the average cost of a workplace accident is about $59,000.
As an employer, what are my responsibilities under the OHSA?
The main responsibilities you will have under the OHSA will be to:
provide information, instruction and supervision to workers;
advise workers and supervisors about hazards in the workplace;
notify MOL of workplace fatalities & critical injuries;
cooperate with the workplace joint health and safety committee or the worker health and safety representative; and,
take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect workers.
Detailed information about your new responsibilities will be available from the Farm Safety Association, the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
You have until June 30, 2006 to become familiar with your new duties and to make any changes that may be needed. Throughout the coming months, educational materials and programs will be available to help you understand the new requirements and to
comply with them.
As an employer, should I be concerned about work refusals slowing or stopping my business during peak work periods?
The OHSA sets out a process that an employer and worker must follow when there is a work refusal. If a refusal cannot be resolved internally, at the first stage, by the workplace parties, a MOL inspector must be called. Inspectors treat work refusal calls as a priority and will respond as quickly as possible.
While waiting for an inspector to come, the employer can assign another worker to do the work that was refused. The second worker must be told that the work was refused and why. This must be done in the presence of one of the following:
a worker member of the joint health and safety committee, if there is one; or,
a worker health and safety representative in workplaces where there is no committee; or,
another worker, chosen by the workers to represent them, because of his or her knowledge, experience and training.
The second worker has the same right to refuse as the first worker.
In most cases, a health and safety issue can be resolved long before it becomes grounds for a work refusal, usually through mechanisms such as the joint health and safety committee or the worker health and safety representative.
Is this really going to protect farm workers?
Yes, it is going to protect farm workers. Because of this regulation, farm workers will now have the same types of basic rights under the OHSA that other Ontario workers already have. These are important rights and include the right to refuse unsafe work; the right to know about workplace hazards; and, the right to participate in decisions about health and safety on the job.
Will the OHSA apply to foreign farm workers?
Yes. The OHSA will apply equally to domestic and foreign farm workers in Ontario.
What is a Joint Health & Safety committee? What does it do?
Joint Health & Safety committee is composed of people who represent both management and the workers at a workplace. Together they identify workplace hazards & make recommendations to the employer to improve the health and safety of workers.
While in general, the OHSA requires a Joint Health & Safety committee to be set up at a workplace with 20 or more regularly employed workers, some limitations for farming operations exist
MOL has a guide for Health & Safety Representatives & Joint Health & Safety Committees on Farming Operations that explains in detail how a joint committee should be set up
When is a Joint Health & Safety committee required on a farming operation?
Not all farms will require a Joint Health & Safety committee. Farms will require a Joint Health & Safety committee if there are 20 or more workers who are regularly employed and have duties related to one or more of the following operation:
These six types of farms were selected because they typically hire workers on a year-round basis. The threshold of 20 workers has been in the OHSA since it first came into force in 1979.
Who is considered "regularly employed"?
Regularly employed includes:
Permanent full-time staff
Permanent part-time staff
Who is counted for the purpose of determining whether a Joint Health & Safety committee or a worker representative is needed?
All those who are regularly employed for a period that exceeds three months are counted, including managers and supervisors who work at the workplace.
What if a farming operation is mixed - part of it falls under one of the six types but the rest of the operation does not. When is a Joint Health & Safety committee required on a mixed operation?
For a Joint Committee to be required on a mixed operation, there must be 20 or more regularly employed workers who all have duties related to one or more of the six types listed above.
What is a certified member of a Joint Health & Safety committee and when are they required?
A 'certified' member of a Joint Committee is a member who has received special training in occupational health & safety and has been certified by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).
In general, the OHSA requires two members of a Joint Health & Safety committee to be certified, one representing management and the other representing workers. On farms, the requirement for certified members is limited to those operations that are required to have a Joint Health & Safety committee and where 50 or more workers are regularly employed.
Detailed information about certification training is available from the WSIB. You can contact the WSIB by phone at 1.800.663.6639 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
When is a Worker Health & Safety Representative required instead of a Joint Committee?
A worker representative is required on:
all farms with 6 to 19 regularly employed workers, regardless of the type of farm or commodity; and on,
farms that have 20 or more regularly employed workers that are not required to have a Joint Committee
Who selects the Worker Health & Safety Representative or the worker members of a Joint Health & Safety committee?
The workers at a workplace who do not have any managerial function must select the Worker Health & Safety Representative or the worker members of a Joint Health & Safety committee. Worker Health & Safety Representatives and worker members of a joint committee cannot be appointed by the employer or by management.
What kind of health and safety training do I have to give my workers?
In general, you have to make sure your workers are aware of any hazards they will encounter on the job, and you have to give them enough information & instruction about these hazards, to allow them to work in a healthy and safe manner.
How much information and instruction is enough? Is there a specific training course my workers have to take?
There is no specific course and no set amount of training. The requirements are flexible so that you can assess how much information a worker needs to work safely, based on the job that the worker is doing and the hazards that are present.
Workers do not have to be trained on every hazard in the workplace - just the ones that they may be exposed to. But there is an obligation to ensure that the workers have understood the information and instruction you have given them and can apply it to their jobs.
Where can I get the information I need? Who can help me?
Workplace Safety & Prevention Services has health and safety literature and videos on a full range of farm hazards. You can use these to provide the appropriate information to your workers. Or, if you prefer, the FSA can carry out on-site worker training programs for you.
If you need help identifying the hazards on your farm, you can get a copy of the Agricultural Safety Audit Program from the FSA. It is a handbook that will help you identify the hazards in your operation, assess the risks and take corrective action.
Regulations under the OHSA
There are over 30 regulations under the OHSA that set out in detail how the workplace parties are to carry out some of the duties that are generally described in the Act. These regulations address many different things, for example, –types of workplaces (mines, construction sites, hospitals); types of work (window cleaning, diving); specific chemical hazards (asbestos, mercury).
Which regulations under the OHSA apply to farming ?
Farming operations will be exempt from all but three of the regulations under the OHSA.
The three regulations that will apply are:
I Regulation 834, which defines the term “critical injury”. Employers are required to notify the MOL of a critical injury at the workplace.
II Regulation 780/94, which requires the employer to pay for the training of certified members of a joint health and safety committee.
Will regulations that apply specifically to farming be developed in the future, like the ones the MOL currently has for construction projects or mines? How will farmers and workers know what to do to control specific hazards?
MOL and OMAFRA are working with the farming community and the Farm Safety Association to develop a set of best practices that will address specific hazards. The first set of best practices will be available in early 2006.