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Farms Safety Legislation - OH&S Questions & Answers

Farm safety

General Application

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 Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development (MLITSD, formerly  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?

MLITSD 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.

As of June 20, 2006, there are new requirements that 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 MLITSD 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.

Ensure you are 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, an MLITSD 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.