This guide does not replace the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations, and should not be used as or considered legal advice. Health and safety inspectors apply the law based on the facts in the workplace.

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About this guide

This Guide has been prepared to assist workplace parties on a farming operation understand their rights and duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA or “the Act”) and its applicable regulations. It explains what workers, suppliers, supervisors, employers and other workplace parties on a farming operation need to know about the OHSA.

The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development issues guidance documents to assist with the application and understanding of the Act. This Guide is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations. Users of this Guide should always reference the official version of the legislation. To assist you, certain relevant section numbers of the OHSA have been inserted in the text throughout this Guide and the applicable regulations are contained in Appendix A.

Section 1 of the Act defines terms used in the legislation footnote 1 and regulations footnote 2 . This Guide references some of the important terms found in the legislation either in the text or as a footnote when they are first mentioned. For a quick reference list of some of the terms more commonly used in the Act, see the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development’s Guide to the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

This Guide does not constitute legal advice. If you require assistance with respect to the interpretation of the legislation and its potential application in specific circumstances, please contact your legal counsel or refer to the OHSA at the Ontario government’s e-laws site.

While this Guide will also be available to Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development inspectors, they will apply and enforce the OHSA and its regulations based on the facts as they may find them in the workplace. This Guide does not affect their enforcement discretion in any way.

For further information on the OHSA and its requirements, refer to our Health and Safety page.

Also refer to Workplace Safety and Prevention Services' (WSPS) farm safety resources.

Introduction

We all share the goal of making Ontario’s farming operations safe and healthy. The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) footnote 3 provides the framework to achieve this goal.

Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act applies with some limitations and conditions to farming operations footnote 4

All workplace parties working on a farming operation should understand their rights and duties under the Act and applicable regulations.

The internal responsibility system

Employers should note that the Act makes it clear that the employers have the greatest responsibilities with respect to health and safety in the workplace. However all workplace parties have a role to play to ensure that health and safety requirements are met in the workplace. All workplace parties have a responsibility for promoting health and safety in the workplace and a role to play to help the workplace be in compliance with the statutory requirements set out under the Act. The respective roles and responsibilities for all workplace parties are detailed in the Act. This is the basis for the Internal Responsibility System (IRS).

The Internal Responsibility System means that everyone in the workplace has a role to play in keeping workplaces safe and healthy. Workers in the workplace who see a health and safety problem, such as a hazard or contravention of the OHSA, have a statutory duty to report the situation to the employer or a supervisor. Employers and supervisors are, in turn, required to address those situations and acquaint workers on a farming operation with any hazard in the work that they do.

Roles and responsibilities

The Employer

The employer, typically represented by senior management, has the greatest responsibilities with respect to health and safety in the workplace and is responsible for taking every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker. The employer is responsible for ensuring that the IRS is established, promoted, and that it functions successfully. A strong IRS is an important element of a strong health and safety culture in a workplace. A strong health and safety culture shows respect for the people in the workplace.

Health and safety representatives/joint health and safety committees

The Health and Safety Representative, or the Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) where applicable, contribute to workplace health and safety because of their involvement with health and safety issues, and by assessing the effectiveness of the IRS. More information on the roles of the joint health and safety committee and the health and safety representative can be found in this guide and the Guide for Joint Health and Safety Committees and Health and Safety Representatives in the Workplace.

Workers

Worker responsibilities include: reporting hazards in the workplace; working safely and following safe work practices; using the required personal protective equipment for the job at hand; participating in health and safety programs established for the workplace.

Supervisors

Supervisors are responsible for making workers fully aware of the hazards that may be encountered on the job or in the workplace; ensuring that they work safely, responding to any of the hazards brought to their attention, including taking every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker.

External parties

Parties and organizations external to the workplace also contribute to workplace health and safety. These include the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD), the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), and the health and safety system partners. The MLTSD's primary role is to set, communicate, and enforce workplace occupational health and safety standards while encouraging greater workplace self-reliance.

The three rights of workers

The Occupational Health and Safety Act gives workers three important rights.

1. The right to know

Workers have the right to know about any potential hazards to which they may be exposed to in the workplace. This means workers have the right to be informed and instructed on how to protect their health and safety while working on a farming operation. Examples of key hazards associated with farming include: machinery and equipment such as tractors and augers; working with or around large animals; working with electricity; and exposure to hazardous substances such as pesticides.

The employer can enable the workers' right to know in various ways, such as making sure they get:

  • Information about the hazards in the work they are doing
  • Training to do the work in a healthy and safe way
  • Competent supervision to stay healthy and safe.

2. The right to participate

Workers have the right to be part of the process of identifying and resolving workplace health and safety concerns. This right is expressed through direct worker participation in health and safety in the workplace and/or through worker health and safety representatives, or through worker membership on joint health and safety committees.

3. The right to refuse

Workers have the right to refuse work that they believe is dangerous to either their own health and safety or that of another worker in the workplace. For example, workers may refuse work if they believe their health and safety is endangered by: any farm equipment they are to use; the physical conditions of the workplace such as working in a confined space; or by workplace violence.

Section 43 of the Act (Part V of this Guide) describes the process for refusing work and the responsibilities of the employer/supervisor in responding to such a refusal.

In certain circumstances, “certified footnote 5 ” members of a joint health and safety committee” have the right to stop work that is dangerous to any worker.

Sections 45-47 of the Act and Part V of this Guide set out these circumstances and how the right to stop work can be exercised.

About the Act

The Act sets out the rights and duties of all parties in the workplace. It establishes procedures for dealing with workplace hazards, and it provides for enforcement of the law where compliance has not been achieved voluntarily by workplace parties.

I. Application

Part 1 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) sets out how the Act applies to Ontario workplaces.

Farming operations covered and not covered by the Act

The OHSA applies to farming operations, subject to certain limitations and conditions. [Ontario Regulation 414/05, Farming Operations, s.1].

Generally, the Act and applicable regulations apply to a farming operation where there are paid worker(s). For example, where there is a paid worker at a farm, even for a short time, the employer and all other workplace parties (e.g. supervisors, suppliers and workers) at that farming operation must comply with all applicable requirements of the Act and regulations.

This includes workers who are residents of Ontario/Canada and workers employed in Ontario through one of the federal government’s Temporary Foreign Worker Programs (TFWP) such as the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP).

The OHSA does not apply to a farming operation operated by a self-employed person without paid workers.

For example, the OHSA does not apply to a husband and wife running a farm and considered by the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD) to be self-employed for the purposes of the OHSA. As well, if their children work on the farm but do not receive any monetary compensation for that work, the OHSA would not apply to that farming operation. The MLTSD would not consider the farmer’s children to be “workers” at a farming operation (for the purpose of the Act) because they are not being paid.

Note: Worker is defined in the OHSA as a person who performs work or supplies services for monetary compensation but does not include an inmate of a correctional institution or like institution or facility who participates inside the institution or facility in a work project or rehabilitation program. Unpaid co-op students, certain other learners and trainees participating in a work placement in Ontario are also defined as a worker under the Act footnote 6 . Specifically, this includes:

  • Unpaid secondary school students who are participating in a work experience program, authorized by the school board that operates the school in which the students are enrolled,
  • Other unpaid learners participating in a program approved by a post-secondary institution, and,
  • Any unpaid trainees who are not employees for the purposes of the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) because they meet certain conditions.

Regulations that apply

The following four (4) regulations made under the OHSA apply footnote 7 to farming operations where the Act applies:

There are other regulations under the OHSA that could apply to certain types of work occurring on a farm, such as regulations related to construction projects and industrial establishments.

For more information about the potential application of other OHSA regulations to certain types of activities that may occur at a farm, refer to Part X of this Guide.

For more occupational health and safety information specific to farming operations, including hazards, guidelines, alerts and videos (i.e. about greenhouses and inspections and biosecurity) refer to our Farming Operations web page.

II. Administration

Part II of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) relates to administration of the Act and covers the requirements setting out the creation, selection, powers, rights and obligations of health and safety representatives and joint health and safety committees.

The health and safety representative (HSR) or the joint health and safety committee (JHSC) where applicable, make an important contribution to workplace health and safety.

The requirements for JHSCs and certified committee members are different for farming operations than for other workplaces.

Not all farms require a health and safety representative, a joint health and safety committee or certified members. The type of farming operation and the number of regularly employed workers determine if a HSR, JHSC and certified members are required or not. A worker is typically considered to be “regularly employed” if the worker’s position exceeds, or is expected to exceed, a period of three months.

Health and safety representative

In most small workplaces, including small farming operations, a worker health and safety representative is required.

Farming operations that require a health and safety representative

A worker health and safety representative is required on:

  • farming operations with 6-19 regularly employed workers, regardless of the type of farming operation, and
  • farming operations that have 20 or more regularly employed workers and that are not required to have a joint health and safety committee (e.g. farming operations other than mushroom, greenhouse, dairy, cattle, poultry and hog farming [section 3 of O. Reg. 414/05 Farming Operations]).

The health and safety representative must be chosen by the workers who do not exercise managerial functions [subsection 8(5) of the Act].

Note that if a farming operation employs five or fewer paid workers, a health and safety representative is not required (unless the Minister orders otherwise), but the Act and regulations still apply.

Functions and powers of the health and safety representative

A health and safety representative has the power to:

  1. Identify workplace hazards

The HSR has the power to identify workplace hazards on the farming operation, such as machinery, substances, production processes, working conditions, procedures or anything else that can endanger the health and safety of workers and to make recommendations or report on his or her findings to the employer and workers [subsection 8 (10) of the Act].

This power is usually exercised by conducting workplace inspections. Unless otherwise required by an inspector’s order, the Act requires that the health and safety representative inspect the workplace at least once a month.

In some cases, monthly inspections may not be practical. For example, the workplace may be too large and complex to be inspected fully each month. Where it is impractical to conduct monthly inspections, the health and safety representative must establish an inspection schedule that will ensure that at least part of the workplace is inspected each month and the entire workplace is inspected at least once a year [subsections 8 (7), (8) of the Act].

  1. Obtain information from the employer

The health and safety representative has the power to obtain information from the employer, such as information about: any actual or potential hazards in the workplace; the health and safety experience and work practices and standards in other workplaces of which the employer is aware; and, any workplace testing that is being carried out for occupational health and safety purposes (e.g. confined space testing of a silo or manure storage area).

  1. Be consulted about and present at workplace testing

If the employer intends to do specific testing at the workplace that is related to occupational health and safety (e.g. for silo gases), the health and safety representative has the right to be consulted before the testing takes place. The health and safety representative may also be present at the beginning of such testing if the worker believes that his or her presence is necessary to ensure that valid testing procedures are used or to ensure that test results are valid [clause 8(11)(b) of the Act].

  1. Make recommendations to the employer

The health and safety representative has the power to make recommendations to the employer and to the workers on ways to improve workplace health and safety. For example, the health and safety representative could recommend that a new type of hearing protection be given to workers in noisy areas, or that safety training programs be established, or that special testing of the work environment be carried out [clauses 9 (18)(b) and (c) of the Act].

  1. Investigate serious injuries or fatalities

The health and safety representative has the power to inspect the scene if a worker is killed or critically injured on the job. The HSR must report their findings in a report to a Director of the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development.

Presence at investigation of work refusals

A health and safety representative is also entitled to be present at an employer’s or supervisor’s investigation of a report of a work refusal [subsection 43 (4) of the Act] and to be consulted by an inspector during an inspector’s investigation of the refusal to work [subsection 43 (7) of the Act].

Joint health and safety committee

A joint health and safety committee is a workplace committee comprised of worker and management representatives.

Farming operations that require a JHSC

A JHSC is required [section 9 (2) of the Act] at a farming operation if:

  • the farming operation has 20 or more workers who are regularly employed [subsection 3 (1) of Ontario Regulation 414/05, Farming Operations], and,
  • those 20 or more workers have duties that include performing work related to one or more of the following six (6) specified farming operations: mushroom farming, greenhouse farming, dairy farming, hog farming, cattle farming and poultry farming [subsection 3 (2) of Ontario Regulation 414/05, Farming Operations].

JHSCs and mixed farming operations

For the purposes of this Guide, a mixed farming operation is one where part of the farming operation includes one or more of the six specified farming types (i.e. greenhouse, mushroom, dairy, hog, cattle, or poultry farming) and the other part of the farming operation is some other, non-specified type of farming.

For the purposes of determining whether a JHSC is required (or not) at a mixed farming operation, workers who have no duties related to the six specified farming types noted above are not counted.

However, a worker(s) who has any duties related to the six specified farming operations (i.e. greenhouse, mushroom, dairy, hog, cattle, or poultry farming) should be counted for the purposes of determining whether a JHSC is required (or not), even if a majority of their time is devoted to other types of farming.

Establishing a JHSC on a farming operation

The responsibility for establishing a JHSC on a farming operation rests with the employer. This means the employer must ensure the committee is established and maintained at the workplace.

Committee size, membership and selection

The minimum size of the JHSC depends on the number of workers.

A JHSC must have at least:

  • two members [clause 9 (6) (a) of the Act] if fewer than 50 workers (i.e. 20-49) are regularly employed footnote 8 at the farming operation, or
  • four members [clause 9 (6) (b) of the Act] if 50 or more workers are regularly employed at the farming operation.

At least half the members of the JHSC must be workers employed at the workplace who do not exercise managerial duties and who are chosen by the workers they will represent [subsections 9 (7) and (8) of the Act].

The employer chooses the remaining management members from persons in the workplace who exercise managerial functions [subsection 9 (9) of the Act]. It is recommended that the employer select management members by giving consideration to their knowledge of operations and health and safety processes and procedures in the workplace.

Whenever possible, committee membership should represent the health and safety concerns of the entire workplace. For example, if a workplace has a greenhouse and a livestock barn, both of these areas should be represented on the committee.

Members no longer employed at the workplace cannot continue to serve on the committee [subsection 9 (10) of the Act].

How the committee should operate

Among other things, the JHSC must:

  • meet at the workplace at least once every three months [subsection 9 (33) of the Act] footnote 9 ,
  • be co-chaired by two members; one chosen by the members who represent workers; and the other by the members representing the employer [subsection 9 (11) of the Act], and,
  • keep a record (minutes) of its meetings which must be made available, upon request, to a Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development inspector [subsection 9 (22) of the Act].

Remuneration

Members are generally entitled to one hour of paid preparation time before each meeting. Members are also paid for time spent at meetings and for carrying out certain other committee duties. They are paid their regular rate or, where applicable, their premium rate of pay [subsections 9 (34) and (35) of the Act]. The committee can decide that more paid preparation time is required.

Main functions and powers of the JHSC

All JHSC members have the same powers as the health and safety representative and some members have other special powers, the key elements of which are described below.

Generally, the JHSC has the power to:

  • identify workplace hazards
  • obtain information from the employer
  • be consulted about and present at workplace testing
  • make recommendations to the employer, and
  • investigate critical injuries or fatalities.

Presence at investigation of work refusals

A JHSC member who represents workers is also entitled to be present at an employer’s or supervisor’s investigation of a report of a work refusal [subsection 43 (4) of the Act] and to be consulted by an inspector during an inspector’s investigation of the refusal to work [subsection 43 (7) of the Act].

For more information, refer to Part V of this Guide, Right to Refuse or to Stop Work Where Health and Safety is in Danger.

Certified member

A “certified” member of a JHSC is a member who has received specialized training in occupational health and safety and has been certified by the Chief Prevention Officer under the OHSA footnote 10 . The certified member plays an important role on the committee and in the workplace and possesses specific powers under the OHSA.

Most JHSCs require a minimum of two certified members, one representing workers and the other representing management [subsection 9 (12) of the Act].

Farming operations that require a certified member

Where a JHSC is required at a farming operation (i.e. at an operation with 20 or more workers who have duties related to mushroom, greenhouse, dairy, hog, cattle and poultry farming ), the requirement for certified committee members [subsection 9 (12) of the Act] only applies if 50 or more workers are regularly employed [subsection 9 (13)] at that operation.

Deciding who will be certified

The workers who selected the joint health and safety committee members also decide which member or members representing workers are to be certified [subsection 9 (14) of the Act].

If more than one of the joint health and safety committee members representing workers is certified, the workers must designate one or more to exercise the rights and perform the duties of certified worker member(s) [subsection 9 (15) of the Act].

Similarly, if more than one of the joint health and safety committee members representing the employer is certified, the employer must designate one or more to exercise the rights, and perform the duties of certified employer member(s) [subsection 9 (16) of the Act].

Rights and duties of certified members

Certified members of a JHSC have special rights and duties in the workplace because they have received special training in workplace health and safety.

Where possible, the certified member who represents workers shall be:

  • designated to conduct the monthly workplace inspections [subsection 9 (24) of the Act], and,
  • present (if possible) at any reassignment of refused work [subsections 43 (11) (12) of the Act].

In addition, a certified member may:

  • investigate any complaints [subsection 48 (1) of the Act] received that dangerous circumstances exist, and
  • order the employer to stop work where dangerous conditions exist, under certain circumstances.

In most cases, it takes two certified members representing both management and the workers to direct an employer to stop dangerous work.

For more information about the right to stop work, refer to Part V of this Guide and/or the “Right to Stop Work” section of the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development publication, “A Guide to the Occupational Health and Safety Act”.

Mixed farming operations

For the purposes of this Guide, a mixed farming operation is one where part of the farming operation includes one or more of the six specified farming types (i.e. greenhouse, mushroom, dairy, hog, cattle, or poultry farming) and the other part of the farming operation is some other, non-specified type of farming.

Mixed farming operations which regularly employ:

  • 6 – 19 workers, must have a health and safety representative,
  • 20 or more workers, where only 19 or fewer have duties related to one or more of the six specified farming operations, require a health and safety representative,
  • 20 – 49 workers, of whom at least 20 have duties related to one or more of the six specified farming operations, must have a JHSC.

If a JHSC is required at a mixed farming operation and that operation regularly employs 50 or more workers, the JHSC must have a minimum of four (4) members, two (2) of whom must be certified members.

Summary

  • All farming operations that regularly employ six to nineteen workers (6-19) are required to have a health and safety representative.
  • All farming operations that regularly employ 20 or more workers but are not required to have a JHSC must have a health and safety representative.
  • Only farming operations that regularly employ 20 or more workers who have duties that include performing work related to greenhouse, mushroom, dairy, hog, cattle and/or poultry farming, are required to have a JHSC.
  • If a farming operation is required to have a JHSC, and it regularly employs 50 or more workers, the JHSC must have at least four (4) members, of whom two (2) must be certified members – one representing workers and one representing management.

Table 1 below provides examples to help explain the requirements on farming operations for a worker health and safety representative and JHSCs.

Table 1: Examples of requirements for worker health and safety representatives, JHSCs and JHSCs with certified members
Type of farming operation Number of regularly employed workers Requirement
Poultry 12 Worker health and safety representative
Mushroom 25 JHSC but no certified members
Orchard 50 Worker health and safety representative
Greenhouse 100 JHSC with at least 4 members, 2 of which must be certified members

Employer’s duty to cooperate

The employer has the duty to co-operate with and help the worker health and safety representative and the joint health and safety committee carry out their functions [clause 25 (2) (e) of the Act]. In particular, the employer is required to:

  • provide any information that the HSR or committee has the power to obtain from the employer,
  • respond to the HSR or committee recommendations in writing within 21 (calendar) days [subsections 8 (12) and 9 (20) of the Act],
  • give the HSR or committee copies of all written orders and reports issued by the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development inspector [subsection 57 (10) of the Act], and,
  • notify the HSR or JHSC of any workplace deaths and critical injuries [subsection 51 (1) of the Act], certain non-critical injuries [subsection 52 (1)], and certain occupational illnesses [subsection 52 (2) of the Act].

In addition, the employer must:

  • post the names and work locations of the committee members, where they are most likely to be seen by the workers [subsection 9 (32) of the Act]; and,
  • advise the HSR or committee of the results of any risk assessment of workplace violence [section 32.0.3 of the Act] and provide the results of any report on occupational health and safety that is in the employer’s possession [clause 25 (2) (l) of the Act].

Where the above noted report is in writing, the employer must provide the HSR or committee with the portions of the report that relate to occupational health and safety.

Workplace safety and insurance board

In workplaces subject to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 (WSIA), and at the request of the employer, a worker, JHSC or health and safety representative, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) must provide to the employer and to the requestor, an annual summary of information about the employer [subsection 12 (1) of the Act].

This information must include the:

  • number of work-related fatalities
  • number of lost-time injuries
  • number of workdays lost
  • number of injuries requiring medical aid but that did not involve lost workdays
  • incidence of occupational illnesses, and,
  • number of occupational injuries.

The WSIB can include any other information it considers necessary or advisable.

When this report is received from the WSIB, an employer must post it in a conspicuous place(s) in the workplace, where it is likely to be seen by the workers.

For more detailed information on health and safety representatives, JHSCs and/or certified members refer to A Guide for Joint Health and Safety Committees and Health and Safety Representatives in the Workplace.

II.I: Prevention council, chief prevention officer and designated entities

Part II.I of the Act sets out the prevention mandate of the Minister, the structure and powers of the Prevention Council, which is an advisory body, and duties of the Chief Prevention Officer (CPO).

The role of the Chief Prevention Officer includes the:

  • development of a provincial occupational health and safety strategy, and
  • preparation of an annual report on occupational health and safety.

Part II.I also sets out the process for an entity to become designated. In the occupational health and safety system, these designated entities are more commonly referred to as Health and Safety Associations (HSAs).

Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS) is the HSA that provides support and services (e.g. training) to farming operations.

For more information on the Prevention Council and the role of the CPO, refer to the Guide to the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

III: Duties of Employers and other persons

Part III of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) imposes duties on employers, supervisors, owners, suppliers, licensees, constructors, officers of a corporation and workers, among others.

This chapter focusses on the duties of employers, supervisors, owners, workers and suppliers on a farm. In addition, if a construction project is taking place at a farming operation, the constructor for that project has duties under the Act and requirements of O. Reg. 213/91 (Construction Projects) that would apply. Part X of this Guide has more information on constructors and their duties.

For more information on the general duties of other workplace parties (such as engineers), see the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD) Guide to the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Duties of employers

An Ontario employer who is covered by the OHSA, has a range of legal obligations, including the obligation to:

  • take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker (e.g. to protect a worker from injury or getting a work related illness) [subsection 25(2)(h) of the Act]
  • provide instruction, information and supervision to workers on how they can protect their health and safety [subsection 25 (2) (a) of the Act]
  • make sure that the equipment, materials, and protective devices provided to a worker are maintained in good condition [section 25 (1) (b) of the Act]
  • provide information to a worker, or a person with authority over a worker, about any work hazard [subsection 25 (2) (d) of the Act]
  • acquaint workers in the safe handling, storage, use, disposal and transportation of any equipment, substances, tools, material, etc. [subsection 25 (2) (d) of the Act]
  • make sure that anyone appointed as a supervisor is competent [subsection 25 (2 )(c) of the Act] footnote 11
  • A “competent person” is defined in the OHSA as one who must:
    • be qualified, through knowledge, training and experience, to organize the work and its performance;
    • be familiar with the Act and the regulations that apply to the work being performed in the workplace, and,
    • know about any actual or potential danger to health and safety in the workplace.
  • help health and safety representatives and joint health and safety committees carry out their functions [subsection 25 (2) (e) of the Act]
  • ensure that every physical structure in the workplace (and its parts) meets the load requirements set out in the applicable Building Code provisions, any applicable standards and sound engineering practices [clause 25 (1) (e) of the Act]
  • in a medical emergency, provide all essential information (e.g. even confidential business information) to qualified medical professional for the purpose of diagnosis or treatment [subsection 25 (2) (b) of the Act],
  • post a copy of the Act in the workplace, as well as explanatory material prepared by the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development that outlines the rights, responsibilities and duties of workers footnote 12 . This material must be in English and the majority language in the workplace [subsection 25 (2) (i) of the Act].
  • in a workplace where more than five workers are regularly employed footnote 13 , prepare a written occupational health and safety policy, review it at least annually and set up and maintain a program to implement it [clause 25 (2) (j) of the Act],
  • post a copy of the occupational health and safety policy in the workplace, where workers will be most likely to see it [clause 25 (2) (k) of the Act]
  • provide the health and safety representative or the joint health and safety committee with the results of any occupational health and safety report that the employer has [clause 25 (2) (l) of the Act], and,
  • advise workers of the results of such a report (a copy in writing if required) footnote 14 [clause 25 (2) (m) of the Act]
  • only employ or allow people who are over a prescribed age to be in or near the workplace [subsections 25 (2) (f) and (g) of the Act].

An employer has additional duties under the Act which must be complied with some of which are related to:

Summary of posting requirements

Where the Act applies, employers must post the following items in the workplace:

  • a copy of the Occupational Health and Safety Act;
  • the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development “Prevention Starts Here” poster;
  • the names and work locations of the joint health and safety committee members;
  • a copy of any report received by the employer from Workplace Safety and Insurance Board;
  • a copy of any order or a report of an inspection, issued by an MLTSD inspector;
  • copies of both the notice of compliance and the original order once submitted to MLTSD; and,
  • a copy of the workplace violence and workplace harassment policies.

Duties of supervisors

A supervisor is a person appointed by the employer who has charge of a workplace or authority over a worker [subsection 1 (1)].

Workers are often asked to act as supervisors in the absence of persons hired in that capacity, particularly those identified by such terms as senior, charge, or lead hands.

Despite the term used, it is very important to understand that if a worker or lead hand has been given “charge of a workplace or authority over a worker” this person has met the definition of a supervisor within the meaning of the OHSA and assumes the legal responsibilities of a supervisor under the Act.

The Act sets out certain specific duties for workplace supervisors.

A supervisor must:

  • ensure that a worker works in compliance with the Act and regulations [clause 27 (1) (a)]
  • ensure that any equipment, protective device or clothing required by the employer is used or worn by the worker [clause 27 (1) (b)]
  • advise a worker of any potential or actual health or safety dangers known by the supervisor clause 27 (2) (a)]
  • if prescribed, provide a worker with written instructions about the measures and procedures to be taken for the worker’s protection clause 27 (2) (b)], and
  • take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of workers clause 27 (2) (c)]

As noted in the list of general duties of the employer above, the OHSA requires that employers appoint a competent person as a supervisor [clause 25 (2) (c)].

Duties of owners

An owner is defined in the OHSA as including a person, tenant, lessee, trustee, receiver, mortgagee in possession or occupier of the lands or premises. It also includes any person who acts as an agent for the owner. Please note that the term “owner” encompasses individuals other than just the person with legal ownership of the premises or land that is being used as a workplace.

An owner may also be an employer under the Act.

Under the OHSA, an owner must ensure that:

  • workplace facilities are provided and maintained as prescribed [clauses 29 (1) (a) (i) and (ii)]
  • the workplace complies with the regulations [clause 29 (1) (a) (iii)]
  • no workplace is constructed, developed, reconstructed, altered or added to except in compliance with the Act and regulations [clauses 29 (1) (a) (iv)], and,
  • where prescribed, workplace drawings, plans or specifications as prescribed are given to a Director of the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development [clause 29 (1) (b)].

Duties of suppliers

Every person who supplies workplace equipment of any kind under a rental, leasing or similar arrangement must ensure that the equipment complies with the Act and regulations and (in specified circumstances) is maintained in good condition [clause 31 (1)].

Duties of workers

Workers play a key role in health and safety at the workplace and are part of the internal responsibility system. Workers have various duties under the Act.

Under the Act, a worker must:

  • work in compliance with the Act and regulations [clause 28 (1) (a)]
  • use or wear any equipment, protective devices or clothing required by the employer [clause 28 (1) (b)]
  • report to the employer or supervisor any known missing or defective equipment or protective device that may endanger the worker or another worker [clause 28 (1) (c)]
  • report any hazard or contravention of the Act or regulations to the employer or supervisor [clause 28 (1) (d)]
  • not remove or make ineffective any protective device required by the employer or by the regulations other than in circumstances specified below (See Note) [clause 28 (2) (a)]
  • not use or operate any equipment or work in a way that may endanger any worker [clause 28 (2) (b)], and
  • not engage in any prank, contest, feat of strength, unnecessary running or rough and boisterous conduct [clause 28 (2) (c)]. Racing farm vehicles or seeing who can pick up heaviest bushel of farm product, are examples of unlawful conduct.

Note: The only circumstance in which a worker may remove a protective device is where an adequate temporary protective device is provided in its stead. Once there is no longer a need to remove the required protective device or to make it ineffective, it must be replaced immediately.

Worker as a supervisor

It is very important to understand that if a worker or lead hand has been given “charge of a workplace or authority over a worker” this person has met the definition of a supervisor within the meaning of the OHSA and assumes the legal responsibilities of a supervisor under the Act. See the Duties of Supervisors above for more information.

III.0.I: Workplace violence and workplace harassment

Part III.0.I of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA or “the Act”) outlines the workplace violence and workplace harassment provisions. This part of the Act sets out the duties of workplace parties with respect to workplace violence and workplace harassment. These duties are the same for workplace parties on a farming operation as they are for other workplaces.

Violence or harassment in the workplace may originate from anyone the worker comes into contact with in a workplace, such as a customer, a student, a co-worker, an employer, or a supervisor. Or the person may be someone with no formal connection to the workplace, such as a stranger or a domestic/intimate partner who brings violence or harassment into the workplace.

Workplace harassment means “engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.” Workplace harassment may include bullying, intimidating or offensive jokes or innuendos, displaying or circulating offensive pictures or materials or offensive or intimidating phone calls.

Harassment may also be a matter that falls under Ontario’sHuman Rights Code.

Workplace violence means the exercise, or attempted exercise, of physical force by a person against a worker, in a workplace, that causes or could cause physical injury to the worker. Workplace violence means also means a statement or behaviour that it is reasonable for a worker to interpret as a threat to exercise physical force against the worker, in a workplace, that could cause physical injury to the worker.

The Criminal Code deals with matters such as violent acts, threats and behaviours, such as stalking. The police should be contacted in these situations.

Employer’s duties

Assessment of workplace risks

Employers must:

  • proactively assess the risks of workplace violence that may arise from the nature of the workplace, the type of work or the conditions of work;
  • advise the health and safety representative or the joint health and safety committee if any, or the workers, of the results of the assessment, and provide a written copy, if available, and
  • develop measures and procedures to control these risks in the workplace violence program.

Policy and program

All employers, who are subject to the OHSA, must:

  • prepare policies with respect to workplace violence and workplace harassment footnote 15
  • review the policies at least once a year [subsection 32.0.1(1)],
  • set up and maintain programs to implement the policies, and,
  • provide information and instruction to workers on the contents of these policies and programs.

A workplace violence program must include measures and procedures:

  • for controlling risks identified in an assessment of risks
  • summoning immediate assistance when workplace violence occurs or is likely to occur, and
  • for workers to report incidents of workplace violence to the employer or supervisor.

Workplace violence programs must also set out how the employer will investigate and deal with incidents or complaints of workplace violence [subsection 32.0.2 (2) of the Act].

A workplace harassment program must:

  • include measures and procedures for workers to report incidents of workplace harassment, and,
  • set out how the employer will investigate and deal with incidents or complaints [subsection 32.0.6 (2) of the Act].

Domestic violence

Employers who are aware, or ought reasonably to be aware, that domestic violence, that would likely expose a worker to physical injury, may occur in the workplace must take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect the worker.

Communication about a person with a history of violent behaviour

Employers and supervisors must provide information to a worker about a risk of workplace violence from a person with a history of violent behaviour, if the worker can expect to encounter that person in the course of work, and if the risk is likely to expose the worker to physical injury. Personal information may be disclosed, but only what is reasonably necessary to protect the worker from physical injury.

The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development

Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development health and safety inspectors may check to ensure employers, supervisors and workers are complying with workplace violence and workplace harassment requirements. They may do this as part of a general inspection of a workplace or when investigating a specific complaint or incident. For example, the ministry can visit the workplace to assess whether the employer has workplace harassment and workplace violence policies and programs in place.

The Ministry encourages internal workplace resolution of complaints.

What workers should know

For both workplace violence and workplace harassment, workers should know how:

  • to report incidents to the employer or supervisor; and,
  • the employer will investigate and deal with incidents or complaints.

For workplace violence only, workers should also:

  • know how to summon immediate assistance; and,
  • know, understand and be able to carry out the measures and procedures that are in place to protect them from workplace violence.

As noted in Part V of this Guide, a worker who believes that he or she is endangered by workplace violence, may refuse to work.

If an employer is not complying with the workplace violence and workplace harassment requirements in the OHSA, workers should call the ministry’s province-wide Health and Safety Contact Centre toll-free at 1-877-202-0008 to file a complaint. Individuals who wish to remain anonymous may do so.

For related information, see the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development’s guide entitled Workplace Violence and Harassment: Understanding the Law.

III.I: Codes of practice

The Minister of Labour may approve all or part of a code of practice as a way to comply with any legal requirement imposed by Occupation Health and Safety Act or a regulation under the Act.

For more information on Codes of Practice refer to the Act or to the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development Guide to the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

IV: Toxic substances

A toxic substance is a biological, chemical or physical agent (or a combination of such agents) whose presence or use in the workplace may endanger the health or safety of a worker.

The Parts of the Occupational Health and Safety Act that deal with toxic substances (e.g. Part IV) are intended to ensure that:

  • worker exposure to toxic substances is controlled,
  • toxic substances in the workplace are clearly identified, and,
  • workers receive enough information about them to be able to handle them safely.

Part IV of the Act provides several ways that worker exposure to toxic substances can be controlled under the Act, including through regulations and orders.

Duties of employers concerning toxic substances on farm operations

An employer at a farming operation has the general obligation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of farm workers.

In addition, the employer has a general duty under the Act to provide information, instruction, and supervision to a worker to protect his or her health and safety.

These general obligations and duties could include circumstances when toxic substances such as pesticides, herbicides or fuels, are present and being used on a farm.

The following regulations made under the Act for the purpose of controlling worker exposure to toxic substances to farming operations footnote 16 .

  1. O. Reg. 490/09 (designated substances),
  2. Regulation 833 (occupational exposure limits), and
  3. Regulation 860 (the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System regulation)

For more information on Part IV, Toxic Substances, refer to the Act or to the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development Guide to the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

V: Right to refuse or to stop work where health and safety is in danger

Generally, under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), a worker can refuse to work if he or she has reason to believe that:

  • any machine, equipment or tool that the worker is using or is told to use is likely to endanger himself or herself or another worker [clause 43 (3) (a)]
  • the physical condition of the workplace or workstation is likely to endanger himself or herself [clause 43 (3) (b)]
  • workplace violence is likely to endanger himself or herself footnote 17 [clause 43 (3) (b.1)], and
  • any machine, equipment or tool that the worker is using, or the physical condition of the workplace, contravenes the Act or regulations and is likely to endanger himself or herself or another worker [clause 43 (3) (c)].

Worker refusal of unsafe work

The Act sets out a procedure that must be followed for any work refusal.

The work refusal begins with the worker notifying the supervisor immediately that work is being refused and why. Following this notification, an investigation by the supervisor/employer is conducted in the presence of the worker and a worker representative (i.e. the Health and Safety Representative (HSR) or a Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) worker member, if any, or another worker who because of knowledge, experience and training is selected by the workers to represent them) with intent to resolve the work refusal.

At this point of the work refusal, the Ministry is of the view that the worker is at work and is entitled to be paid at his or her appropriate rate.

A person acting as a worker representative during a work refusal is paid at either the regular or the premium rate, whichever is applicable [subsection 43 (13)].

If the worker continues to refuse to work, based on reasonable grounds, an Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD) inspector must be notified.

Throughout the time of the work refusal, the (refusing) worker must remain in a safe place, reasonably close to their workstation and available for the purposes of the investigation. The employer may assign the worker some other reasonable alternative work or give other direction to the worker.

The MLTSD inspector must make a decision on whether or not the circumstance(s) that led to the refusal is likely to endanger the worker (or another person) and give their decision, in writing to the employer, the worker and the worker representative.

Depending on the inspector’s decision, the refusing worker is expected to return to work, or the employer will be ordered to remedy the hazard.

Other workers

The employer or supervisor can ask another worker to do the work that was refused but the second worker must be told that the work was refused and why.

This request must be made in the presence of a health and safety representative, or a worker representative chosen because of knowledge, experience and training [subsections 43(11) and (12) of the Act] or a committee member who represents workers, and if possible, is a certified member. The second worker has the same right to refuse the work as the first worker.

Worker discipline

The employer is expressly prohibited from penalizing, dismissing, disciplining, suspending or threatening to do any of these things to a worker who has obeyed or sought enforcement of the OHSA [subsection 50 (1) of the Act].

Part VI of this Guide provides more information on Reprisals.

For more information on the work refusal process, including a flow chart outlining the two stages refer to Part V of the MLTSD Guide to the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The right to stop work

The Occupational Health and Safety Act permits certified members of a JHSC to stop work in “dangerous circumstances”.

Dangerous circumstances

Work can be stopped only in “dangerous circumstances” [subsection 44 (1) and section 45 of the Act] which means all of the following apply:

  1. the Act or the regulations are being contravened, and
  2. the contravention poses a danger or a hazard to a worker, and
  3. any delay in controlling the danger or hazard may seriously endanger a worker.

In most cases, it takes both worker and management certified joint health and safety committee members to direct an employer to stop dangerous work (which is called joint stoppage). In some special cases, a single certified member may have this right.

Joint right to stop work

If a certified member of the joint health and safety committee, one representing either the workers or the employer [subsection 45 (1)], has reason to believe that dangerous circumstances exist, that member may ask a supervisor to investigate.

The supervisor must do so promptly and in the presence of the certified member who made the request.

If dangerous circumstances continue to exist

If the certified member believes that dangerous circumstances still exist after the supervisor’s investigation and any remedial action taken, that member may ask another certified member (who represents the other workplace party) to investigate [subsection 45 (2)].

For more information on what to do if dangerous circumstances continue to exist, refer to Part V of the MLTSD Guide to the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Unilateral work stoppage

The Act provides that an application can be made to the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) for a specified declaration or recommendation against the employer if any certified member or a Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development inspector believes that the procedure for joint stoppage of work will not be sufficient to protect the workers from serious risk to their health or safety [subsection 46 (1)].

For more information on the process for the unilateral right to stop dangerous work, refer to Part V of the MLTSD Guide to the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Responsible use of the right to stop work

Where an employer or worker has reasonable grounds to believe that a certified member recklessly or in bad faith exercised, or failed to exercise powers under section 45 or section 47 to stop work in dangerous circumstances, he or she may file a complaint (within 30 days of the event) with the OLRB.

For more information on the responsible use of the right to stop work, complaints and the role of the OLRB, refer to Part V of the MLTSD Guide to the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

VI: Reprisals by employer prohibited

Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) prohibits employers from penalizing workers in reprisal for obeying the law or exercising their rights under this law.

A reprisal is any kind of penalty.

Under Section 50 of the OHSA, an employer cannot:

  • dismiss (or threaten to dismiss) a worker
  • discipline or suspend a worker (or threaten to do so)
  • impose (or threaten to impose) any penalty upon a worker, or
  • intimidate or coerce a worker…

… because a worker has

  • followed the OHSA and regulations
  • exercised rights under the OHSA, including the right to refuse unsafe work
  • asked the employer to follow the OHSA and regulations.

A worker also cannot be penalized for:

  • providing information to a Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development inspector,
  • following a Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development inspector’s order, or
  • testifying at a hearing about OHSA enforcement: in court; before the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB), the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario or similar organization; at a grievance arbitration; and at a coroner’s inquest.

The reprisal process

The Act provides a worker who believes that the employer has reprised against him or her has the right to file a complaint (for free) with the OLRB. Alternatively, in certain circumstances, an inspector may refer a matter to the OLRB where the worker consents. The Act sets out what the OLRB may do to look into a worker’s reprisal compliant.

If there is an allegation of reprisal before the OLRB, it is up to the employer to refute it.

The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development will also investigate the health and safety concerns related to a reprisal complaint.

For more information on the role of the Ontario Labour Relations Board and how to seek free assistance from the Office of the Worker Advisor, the Office of the Employer Advisor (OEA), the Law Society of Upper Canada and others, see the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development’s fact sheet on reprisals in the workplace.

VII: Notices

The Occupational Health and Safety Act requires employers to notify certain people whenever certain workplace injuries, illnesses, or fatalities occur.

1. Where there is a critical injury or death

If a person has been critically injured or killed from any cause footnote 18 at a farming operation, the employer must immediately footnote 19 notify:

  • a Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD) inspector, and
  • the joint health and safety committee or health and safety representative (if any).

This notice must be by direct means, such as by telephone. Within 48 hours, the employer must also notify, in writing, a Director of the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development, giving the circumstances of the occurrence [subsection 51 (1)].

See Appendix C for the list of information recommended by MLTSD to be included in a written notice of critical injury or fatality and notice of occurrence or occupational illness.

A “critical injury” is an injury of a serious nature as defined in R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 834 Critical Injury - Defined. For a definition of criticxal injury, refer to Appendix A of this Guide.

Scene of a critical or fatal injury

If a person is killed or critically injured at a workplace, no person can alter the scene where the injury occurred in any way without the permission of an inspector.

This requirement does not apply if it is necessary to disturb the scene in order to:

  • save a life or relieve human suffering
  • maintain an essential public utility service or public transportation system, or
  • prevent unnecessary damage to equipment or other property [subsection 51 (2)].

2. Where there is an injury that is not a critical injury

If an accident, explosion, fire or violent incident occurs and a worker is disabled from performing his or her work or requires medical attention (but no one dies or is critically injured), the employer must notify the joint health and safety committee or health and safety representative (if any) in writing within four days of the incident. If required by an inspector, this written notice must also be given to a Director of the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development [subsection 52 (1)].

3. Where there is an occupational illness

If an employer is told that a worker has an occupational illness or that a claim for an occupational illness has been filed with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, within four days, the employer must notify:

  • a Director of the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development, and,
  • the joint health and safety committee or health and safety representative (if any)

The notice must be in writing.

This duty to notify also applies with respect to former workers [subsection 52 (3)].

An “occupational illness” is defined as:

  • a condition that results from exposure in a workplace to a physical, chemical or biological agent to the extent that the normal physiological mechanisms are affected and the health of the worker is impaired; and
  • an occupational disease for which a worker is entitled to benefits under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997.

For the list of information recommended by MLTSD to be included in a written notice of critical injury or fatality and notice of occurrence or occupational illness, refer to Appendix C.

VIII: Enforcement

The Ministry may exercise its administrative and/or regulatory enforcement powers where workplace parties do not voluntarily comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).

Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD) health and safety inspectors are typically appointed as Provincial Offences Officers under the Provincial Offences Act (POA).

Inspector’s powers

MLTSD inspectors have the general power to:

  • inspect provincially regulated workplaces
  • issue requirements or administrative orders where there is a contravention of the Occupational Health and Safety Act or its regulations
  • investigate critical injuries, fatalities, work refusals and health and safety complaints, and
  • initiate prosecution under the POA in respect to offences under the OHSA and/or its regulations.

A prosecution may be initiated when the inspector has reasonable and probable grounds to believe that a workplace party has committed an offence.

In addition to general powers, the inspector has additional powers, including the authority to:

  • enter any part of the farming operation that is not a dwelling without warrant or notice [clause 54 (1) (a)].
    (It is important to note that an inspector may only enter a private dwelling or part of a dwelling, if it is being used as a workplace, with the consent of the occupier or under the authority of a warrant issued by a court under the OHSA or the POA).
  • question any person, either privately or in the presence of someone else, who may be connected to an inspection, examination or test [clause 54 (1) (h)]
  • handle, use or test any equipment, machinery, material or agent in the workplace and take away any samples [clauses 54 (1) (b) and (e)]
  • look at any documents or records and take them from the workplace in order to make copies [clauses 54 (1) (c) and (d)]. The inspector must provide a receipt for the removed documents and return them promptly after making copies.
  • take photographs [clause 54 (1) (g)]
  • require that any part of a workplace, or the entire workplace, not be disturbed for a reasonable period of time in order to conduct an examination, inspection or test [clause 54 (1) (i)]
  • require that any equipment, machinery or process be operated or set in motion or that a system or procedure be carried out that may be relevant to an examination, inquiry or test [clause 54 (1) (j)]
  • look at and copy any material concerning a worker training program [clause 54 (1) (p)] or be able to attend the training programs
  • direct a joint health and safety committee member representing workers, or a health and safety representative, to inspect the workplace at specified intervals [section 55]
  • require the employer, at his or her expense, to have an expert test and provide a report on any equipment, machinery, materials, agents, etc. [clause 54 (1) (f)]
  • require the employer, at his or her expense, to have a professional engineer test any equipment or machinery and verify that it is not likely to endanger a worker [clause 54 (1) (k)] and stop the use of anything, pending such testing [clause 54 (1) (l)]
  • require an owner, constructor or employer to provide, at his or her expense, a report from a professional engineer that assesses the structural soundness of a workplace [clause 54 (1) (m)].

Workplace inspections

Workplace inspections are carried out by Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development health and safety inspectors to ensure compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and applicable regulations and to ensure that the Internal Responsibility System is working.

Upon arrival at a farming operation, a MLTSD health and safety inspector will introduce themselves, explain the purpose of their visit and ask about specific farm protocols.

Inspectors will do their best to accommodate farm schedules (e.g. milking times, harvesting) and may pre-arrange their visits when appropriate.

Inspectors receive training on bio-security in order to address the concern of biological cross-contamination between farms.

Inspection process and frequency

The inspection involves a thorough examination of the physical condition of the workplace by the inspector, who is usually accompanied by both employer and worker health and safety representatives or both the management & worker members of the joint health and safety committee.

The type of workplace, its size, past health and safety record and specific complaints about the farming operation are the types of factors that determine when and how often an inspection may be conducted on a farm.

When an inspector visits a farming operation in response to a complaint, the identity of the farm worker (or other person) who filed the complaint is kept confidential. Furthermore, as a general matter, information provided to an inspector under the Act is confidential, except for the purposes of the Act and regulations or as required by the law.

During inspections, inspectors may refer workplace parties to Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS).

Participation in the inspection

In addition to persons selected by the employer, the employer has a duty to afford a worker representative the opportunity to accompany the inspector during an inspection of the farming operation. This person may be a worker member of the joint health and safety committee, a health and safety representative, or another knowledgeable and experienced worker selected by the workers [subsection 54 (3)].

This worker is considered to be at work during the inspection and must be paid at the applicable rate of pay.

If there is no such worker representative, the inspector must endeavour to talk to a reasonable number of workers about their health and safety concerns during the inspection of the farming operation [subsection 54 (4)].

The inspector may also be accompanied by a person with special, expert or professional knowledge. For example, an inspector may bring an engineer into a workplace to test farm equipment for purposes of operator safety [clause 54 (1) (g)].

Everyone in the workplace is expected to cooperate

The Act prohibits any person from obstructing, hindering, molesting or interfering with an inspector or attempting to do so while the inspector is exercising powers or performing duties under the Act [subsection 62 (1)]. Moreover, the Act requires every person to assist an inspector in the exercise of his or her powers and duties and in the execution of a search warrant.

It is an offence to interfere in any way with an inspector. This includes giving false information, failing to give required information or interfering with any monitoring equipment left in the workplace.

Inspector’s orders

The inspector will issue written orders to the employer to:

  • comply with the law within a certain time period (e.g. a time-based order) or,
  • if the hazard is imminent, to comply immediately (e.g. a forthwith order) or,
  • stop work (a stop work order).

An inspector’s order can require the employer to submit a plan to the ministry, specifying when and how he or she will comply with the order. An inspector may also make written observations for improved health and safety practices.

Stop work orders

Where an order has been issued to correct a contravention of the Act or regulations, and the contravention in question is dangerous to the health or safety of a worker (e.g. an unguarded machine or a blocked fire exit is found on the farm operation), the inspector may also order that:

  • any place, equipment, machinery, material, process, etc., not be used until the order has been complied with [clause 57 (6) (a)]
  • the work be stopped [clause 57 (6) (b)] until the stop work order is cancelled or withdrawn by the inspector
  • the workplace be cleared of workers and access to the workplace be prevented until the hazard is removed [clause 57 (6) (c)].

Where the inspector has stopped work, the employer may resume work or the use of any equipment, machinery, etc., before a further inspection only under the following two conditions:

  • the employer has notified an inspector that the order has been complied with, and
  • a joint health and safety committee member representing workers or a health and safety representative advises an inspector that, in his or her opinion, the order has been complied with [subsection 57 (7)].

Employer’s notice of compliance with an order

If an inspector has issued an order to an employer to remedy a contravention of the Act or regulations, the employer must send a written and signed notice of compliance with the order to the Ministry within three days of when the employer believes the order has been complied with [subsection 59 (1)].

The notice must include a signed statement from a worker member of the joint health and safety committee or a health and safety representative indicating that the member or representative agrees or disagrees with the employer’s notice of compliance [clause 59 (2) (a), or provide a statement that accompanies the compliance notification, that the member or representative has declined to sign the statement [clause 59 (2) (b)].

The joint health and safety committee worker member or health and safety representative can decline to sign the above noted statement. One reason might be that the member or representative may feel that he or she cannot properly evaluate the employer’s compliance with the order.

Posting orders and reports in the workplace

When an inspector issues an order or a report of an inspection, a copy must be posted (normally by the employer) in the workplace where it is most likely to be seen by the workers. Where the order resulted from a complaint regarding the contravention and the complainant requests a copy, the inspector must ensure that a copy is provided to that person. A copy must also be given to either the joint health and safety committee or the health and safety representative [subsection 57 (10)].

The employer must also post copies of both the notice of compliance and the original order in a place in the workplace where they are most likely to be seen by workers, for a period of 14 days, following the date of submission of the notice to the Ministry [subsection 59 (3)].

The inspector must ensure that a copy of the order is provided to the complainant, if that complainant requests a copy.

The employer’s notice of compliance to the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development does not mean that compliance with an order has been achieved. Compliance with an order can be determined only by a Ministry inspector [subsection 59(4)].

Appeals to the Ontario Labour Relations Board

Any employer, owner or worker who has been aggrieved by an inspector’s order can appeal to the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) within 30 days of the order being issued [subsection 61 (1)].

The party appealing can also ask the OLRB to suspend the order until the appeal has been decided. If an inspector decides not to issue an order, that decision can also be appealed [subsection 61 (5)].

The OLRB will hear and make a decision on the appeal as promptly as possible under the circumstances.

In making a decision, the OLRB has all the powers of an inspector and can uphold the order of the inspector, rescind it or issue a new order. The decision of the OLRB is final.

IX: Offences and penalties

The Ministry may initiate a prosecution against any regulated person (including employers, supervisors, and workers) for a contravention of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) or the regulations, or for failing to comply with an order of an inspector, a director or the minister [subsection 66 (1)]. These prosecutions are conducted by the Ministry of the Attorney General lawyers or paralegals, on behalf of the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development.

If convicted, a court may impose a fine and/or jail term against an individual defendant.

The maximum fine per charge for an individual is $25,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 12 months.

The maximum fine, which can be imposed on a corporation convicted of an offence, is $500,000 per charge [subsections 66 (1) and (2)].

Court Bulletins reporting on some OHSA conviction outcomes and statistics pertaining to enforcement can be viewed on the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development website.

X: Regulations

The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) gives the Lieutenant Governor in Council broad powers to make regulations under the Act.

Not all regulations under the OHSA apply to farming operations.

Regulations that apply to farming operations

As noted in Part I of this Guide, O. Reg. 414/05, Farming Operations, Section 4 provides that the following three regulations under the OHSA apply to farming operations:

  1. 1. R.R.O. 1990, Critical Injury – Defined made under the Act.
  2. 2. O. Reg. 297/13, Occupational Health and Safety Awareness Training made under the Act.
    This regulation makes awareness training mandatory on workplaces subject to the OHSA and also includes existing provisions formerly contained in O. Reg. 780/94 (Training Programs), which has been revoked.
    To help employers on a farming operation comply with the requirements above, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development website provides awareness training resources for both workers and supervisors and other materials about O. Reg. 297/13.
  3. (from July 1, 2016 onwards) O. Reg. 381/15, Noise

See Appendix A for a copy of each of these regulations.

Regulation of certain other activities at a farm

Other regulations under the Act may apply to “non-farm” work occurring at a farm such as when there is a construction project or a retail operation on the farm. The degree to which the “non-farm” work is an integral and functional part of the normal farm operations is an important consideration in determining whether other regulations may apply to that activity (or not).

Farm owners and/or employers should seek legal advice and/or refer to the Act, the appropriate regulations and the general guide to the OHSA to determine when and if additional regulatory requirements may apply.

1. Construction projects (Ontario Regulation 231/91)

O. Reg. 213/91, Construction Projects, may apply to a project (as that term is defined in the OHSA) located at a farm such as construction of a barn or when building a drainage system involving trenching).

Whether Ontario Regulation 213/91 would apply to construction activity occurring at a farm would need to be assessed on a case by case basis.

If there is a construction project at a farm, the “constructor” must comply with a number of duties some of which are described below.

A constructor is defined in the OHSA as a person who undertakes a project, for an owner and includes an owner who undertakes all or part of a project by himself or herself or by more than one employer. The constructor is generally the person who has overall control of a project.

Under the Act, the constructor’s duties are to ensure that:

  • the measures and procedures in the Act and regulations are carried out [clause 23 (1) (a)]
  • every employer and worker on the project complies with the Act and regulations [clause 23 (1) (b)], and,
  • that the health and safety of workers on the project is protected [clause 23 (1) (c)].

Where required in regulation, a constructor must give written notice to a Director at the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development, containing prescribed information, before work begins on a project [subsection 23 (2)].

For more information, refer to the publication entitled: Constructor Guideline: Health and Safety.

2. Industrial establishments (Regulation 851)

O. Reg. 851, Industrial Establishments, may apply depending on the nature and structure of the business at the farming operation.

Whether Regulation 851, Industrial Establishments, would apply to a specific activity at a farming operation should be assessed on a case by case basis.

For example:

  • Greenhouse operations or nurseries that grow seedlings exclusively for the forestry industry for reforestation projects are considered to be an industrial establishment to which Regulation 851 could apply.
  • A processing plant that receives raw materials/commodities from other farming operations in order to process by washing, packaging and selling to market may be considered to be an industrial establishment to which Regulation 851 could apply.
  • A processing or retail business that may or may not include commodities that are produced either on the same farm or another farm may be considered to be an industrial establishment to which Regulation 851 could apply.

Appendices

Appendix A: OHSA regulations that apply to farming operations

For access to official copies of Ontario’s statutes and regulations go to Ontario government’s e-laws website.

Appendix B: How to prepare an occupational health and safety policy

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, an employer must prepare and review at least annually a written occupational health and safety policy, and must develop and maintain a program to implement that policy [clause 25 (2) (j)].

A policy statement by the employer is an effective way to communicate the organization’s commitment to worker health and safety. Senior management attitudes, relationships between employers and workers, community interests and technology all combine to play a part in determining how health and safety are viewed and addressed in the workplace.

Workplaces with exceptional health and safety records have established a clear line of responsibility for correcting health and safety concerns. This action enhances working relationships between employers and workers.

A clear, concise policy statement should reflect management’s commitment, support and attitude to the health and safety program for the protection of workers. This statement should be signed by the employer and the highest level of management at the workplace, thus indicating employer and senior management commitment.

An example of a health and safety policy follows.

Health and safety policy

The employer and senior management of [insert name of business] are vitally interested in the health and safety of its workers. Protection of workers from injury or occupational disease is a major continuing objective.

[Insert name of business] will make every effort to provide a safe, healthy work environment. All employers, supervisors and workers must be dedicated to the continuing objective of reducing risk of injury.

[Name] as employer, is ultimately responsible for worker health and safety. As president (or owner/operator, chairperson, chief executive officer, etc.) of [insert name of business], I give you my personal commitment that I will comply with my duties under the Act, such as taking every reasonable precaution for the protection of workers in the workplace.

Supervisors will be held accountable for the health and safety of workers under their supervision. Supervisors are subject to various duties in the workplace, including the duty to ensure that machinery and equipment are safe and that workers work in compliance with established safe work practices and procedures.

Every worker must protect his or her own health and safety by working in compliance with the law and with safe work practices and procedures established by the employer. Workers will receive information, training and competent supervision in their specific work tasks to protect their health and safety.

It is in the best interest of all parties to consider health and safety in every activity. Commitment to health and safety must form an integral part of this organization, from the president to the workers.

Signed:
President

Appendix C: Notice of critical injury or fatality

The employer’s written notice of a critical injury or fatality should include the following information:

  • the name, address and phone number of the employer
  • the type of farming operation;
  • the name, address and phone number of the person who was killed or critically injured;
  • the time and place of the occurrence;
  • a description of the occurrence and the bodily injury sustained;
  • a description of the machinery or equipment involved, if any;
  • the names, addresses and phone numbers of all witnesses to the occurrence; and
  • the name, address and phone number of the physician, if any, by whom the person was or is being attended; and,
  • the steps taken to prevent a recurrence.

Notice of occurrence or occupational illness

The employer’s written notice of an accident, explosion or fire that disables a worker or which requires medical attention but is not a critical injury or fatality; or, a notice of an occupational illness, should include the following information:

  • the name, address and phone number of the employer
  • the type of farming operation;
  • the name, address and phone number of the person suffering the injury or illness;
  • the time and place of the occurrence;
  • a description of the occurrence and the bodily injury or illness sustained;
  • a description of the machinery or equipment involved, if any;
  • the names, addresses and phone numbers of all witnesses to the occurrence;
  • the name, address and phone number of the physician, if any, by whom the person was or is being attended for the injury or illness; and
  • the steps taken to prevent a recurrence.

Footnotes

  • footnote[1] Back to paragraph Legislation/laws are binding, enforceable rules of conduct that society creates by legislation, court decisions and custom. The term “Legislation” encompasses both Acts enacted by the Legislature and regulations made by a person or body whose authority to make them is set out in an Act.
  • footnote[2] Back to paragraph A “regulation” is a law made by a person or body whose authority to make the law is set out in an Act. Usually the authority is given to the Lieutenant Governor in Council but sometimes the authority is given to a Minister of the Government or to another person or body. Regulations are considered to be "delegated legislation" because the authority to make them is delegated from the Legislative Assembly. The purpose of a regulation is to provide details to give effect to the policy established by the Act.
  • footnote[3] Back to paragraph The Occupational Health and Safety Act is amended from time to time. A current version is available at the Ontario government’s e-laws site.
  • footnote[4] Back to paragraph Ontario Regulation 414/05, Farming Operations, Section 1, makes the OHSA applicable to farming operations, subject to some limitations and conditions (effective June 30, 2006).
  • footnote[5] Back to paragraph Only “certified” members have the right to stop work. Certified members are Joint Health and Safety Committee representatives with special training. See Part II of this Guide for more information on certified members.
  • footnote[6] Back to paragraph This expanded definition of worker took effect November 20, 2014 when Bill 18 received Royal Assent.
  • footnote[7] Back to paragraph In accordance with O. Reg. 414/05, Farming Operations, Section 4.
  • footnote[8] Back to paragraph A worker is typically considered to be “regularly employed” if the worker’s position exceeds, or is expected to exceed, a period of three months.
  • footnote[9] Back to paragraph The JHSC may be required to meet by order of the Minister.
  • footnote[10] Back to paragraph JHSC members certified by the WSIB under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act (WSIA) are also recognized as certified under the OHSA.
  • footnote[11] Back to paragraph An employer may appoint themselves as supervisors if they meet all three qualifications listed in the definition of “competent person”.
  • footnote[12] Back to paragraph “Prevention Starts Here”, is a poster that must be posted in all workplaces where the Act applies, including farming operations.
  • footnote[13] Back to paragraph For guidance on how to prepare a written occupational health and safety policy, see Appendix B of this Guide.
  • footnote[14] Back to paragraph If the report is in writing, the employer must provide a copy of the parts of the report that relate to occupational health and safety [subsection 25 (2) (i)] to the JHSC.
  • footnote[15] Back to paragraph In a workplace where there are six (6) or more regularly employed workers, the policies are required to be in writing and posted where workers are likely to see them [subsections 32.0.1 (2) and (3)].
  • footnote[16] Back to paragraph They may however, apply to other employers (e.g. a contractor) performing work at a farm.
  • footnote[17] Back to paragraph The right to refuse work under the OHSA does not apply with respect to workplace harassment.
  • footnote[18] Back to paragraph The employer duty to notify the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development when a person is critically injured or killed in a workplace includes situations when the cause is workplace violence.
  • footnote[19] Back to paragraph If there is an emergency occurring in your workplace, call 911 immediately.
Updated: July 05, 2021
Published: April 04, 2017