Occupational Health and
Application to Farming Operations
Frequently Asked Questions
Table of Contents
- General Application
- Joint Health and Safety Committes/Worker Health
and Safety Representatives
- Regulations under the OHSA
- Will the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) apply
to all farms?
No. The OHSA will apply to farms with paid workers. It will
not apply to the self-employed farmer who does not have paid
- 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.
The OHSA 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?
No. 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?
The Ministry of Labour 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 30, 2006, farmers were required to comply with
the new requirements, which are expected to 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
- provide information, instruction and supervision to workers;
- advise workers and supervisors about hazards in the workplace;
- notify the Ministry of Labour of workplace fatalities
and 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 Workplace Safety and Prevention Services
or the Ministry of Labour.
- 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 Ministry of Labour 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
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.
Joint Health and Safety Committees / Worker
Health and Safety Representatives
- What is a joint health and safety committee? What does it
A joint health and safety committee is composed of people
who represent both management and the workers at a workplace.
Together they identify workplace hazards and make recommendations
to the employer to improve the health and safety of workers.
While in general, the OHSA requires a joint health and safety
committee to be set up at a workplace with 20 or more regularly
employed workers, some limitations for farming operations
exist (see next question).
The Ministry of Labour has a Guide for Health and Safety
Representatives and Joint Health and Safety Committees on
Farming Operations that explains in detail how a joint committee
should be set up and function. The guide is available on the
Ministry's web site.
- When is a joint health and safety committee required on a
Not all farms will require a joint health and safety committee.
Farms will require a joint health and safety committee if
there are 20 or more workers who are regularly employed and
have duties related to one or more of the following operations:
- cattle, and
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
- Contract staff
- Seasonal workers.
- Who is counted for the purpose of determining whether a joint
health and 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 listed in Question 2 but the rest of the
operation does not. When is a joint health and 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
in Question 2 above.
A table after Question 7 gives some examples to help explain
- What is a certified member of a joint health and 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 and safety
and has been certified by the Workplace Safety and Insurance
In general, the OHSA requires two members of a joint health
and 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 and 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.
You can also contact Workplace Safety and Prevention Services
- When is a worker health and 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
The following table has examples to help explain the requirements
for a joint health and safety committee (JHSC), a worker health
and safety representative, and certified members.
Examples of when a worker health and safety representative
is required instead of a joint committee
|Type of Farming Operation
||Number of Regularly Employed
||JHSC with certified members
|Mixed: Crops and Hog
60 total: 45 with crops
15 with hogs
|Mixed: Crops and Hog
||60 total: 40 with crops
20 with hogs
|Mixed: Crops and Hog
||30 total who work in both parts of operation
|Mixed: Crops, Hog and Dairy
||60 total: 10 with crops
25 with hogs
25 with cows
|JOSC with certified members
|Mixed: Crops, Hog, Dairy and Poultry
60 total: 45 with crops
5 with hogs
5 with cows
5 with poultry
|Mixed: Crops, Hog, Dairy and Poultry
||60 total: 40 with crops
10 with hogs
5 with cows
5 with poultry
- I'm a supervisor on a farming operation. Can I represent
the employees on the Joint Health and Safety Committee?
If you exercise managerial functions - for example, if you
have the authority to hire, fire or discipline workers, or
the authority to recommend the hiring, firing or disciplining
of workers - you are considered part of management and can
only represent the employer on a joint health and safety committee.
In this circumstance, you cannot represent workers on a joint
health and safety committee or be selected as a worker health
and safety representative.
- Who selects the worker health and safety representative or
the worker members of a joint health and safety committee?
The workers at a workplace who do not have any managerial
function must select the worker health and safety representative
or the worker members of a joint health and safety committee.
Worker health and safety representatives and worker members
of a joint committee cannot be appointed by the employer or
Enforcement / Inspections
- Will MOL inspectors routinely inspect farming operations?
The MOL will develop an inspection plan for farming operations.
The MOL typically focuses its inspections on high-risk employers
(employers with higher than average lost-time injury rates
and claims costs) and on workplaces with operations and equipment
known to be hazardous.
Inspectors will also visit workplaces when called in to investigate
an accident, a work refusal or a complaint.
Ideally, because of the "internal responsibility system"
provided for in the OHSA, employers and workers will be able
to resolve health and safety issues that arise at a workplace
themselves, without the need to call in an inspector.
- If an inspector sees a violation of the OHSA, will my operation
come to a halt and for how long?
An inspector's enforcement action depends on the type of
violation. If an inspector observes a violation of the OHSA
the inspector will issue an order for compliance. There are
three different types of orders:
- Time-based order - compliance must be achieved within
a time frame determined by the inspector in consultation
with the employer and worker representative (where there
- Forthwith order - efforts to achieve compliance must
begin immediately and be completed before the inspector
leaves the workplace (e.g. clearing a blocked fire exit);
- Stop work order - used when an inspector finds that the
violation is an immediate danger or hazard to the health
or safety of a worker (e.g. unguarded machinery that is
being used). A stop work order will be withdrawn upon compliance.
- Will inspectors be trained to inspect farming operations?
Yes. The MOL will develop training programs for its inspectors
and in so doing, will consult the Ministry of Agriculture
and Food, the WSPS and the agriculture industry to ensure
that the training is comprehensive and appropriate.
The MOL recognizes that inspectors entering farms need to
be aware of certain circumstances and hazards unique to such
operations; for example, the need to establish inspection
protocols and to take precautions so that there is no biological
cross-contamination between farms.
- What are the penalties for violating the OHSA or its regulations?
The MOL may prosecute any person for a violation of the OHSA
or the regulations, or for failing to comply with an order
of an inspector, a Director or the Minister.
If convicted of an offence under the OHSA, an individual
can be fined up to $25,000 and/or imprisoned for up to 12
months. The maximum fine for a corporation convicted of an
offence is $500,000.
- What kind of health and safety training do I have to give
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 and 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
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 and Prevention Service 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 WSPs 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 WSPS. It is a handbook that will help you identify
the hazards in your operation, assess the risks and take
You can reach the WSPS at 1-877-494-9777.
- What is certification training? Certification training
will only affect you if you have 50 or more workers regularly
employed on a dairy, beef, hog, poultry, mushroom or greenhouse
operation. If you fall into this group, two members of your
joint health and safety committee (one representing management
and one representing workers) will need to take special training
known as certification training.
The certification training program has two parts. Part
One is Basic Certification - it provides general health
and safety information that is applicable to all workplaces.
Part Two is Workplace-Specific Hazard Training. It focuses
on significant hazards in your workplace and on how to assess
and control those hazards.
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:
- Regulation 834, which defines the term "critical
injury". Employers are required to notify the
MOL of a critical injury at the workplace.
- Regulation 780/94, which requires the employer
to pay for the training of certified members of
a joint health and safety committee.
- Regulation 572/99, which gives MOL inspectors
the authority to enforce requirements established
by the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities,
that workers performing certain restricted trades
(for example, an electrician or steamfitter) must
be appropriately qualified/certified.
- Will regulations that apply specifically to farming
operations 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
Over the fall and winter, MOL and OMAF will work with
the farming community and the WSPS to develop a set
of best practices that will address specific hazards.
For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300