Temporary help employment is generally a working arrangement limited to a certain period of time based on the needs of an employer who gets help through a temporary help agency. The agency supplies the worker. The host employer is a client of the agency.

Workers who are new to a workplace are up to three times more likely to be injured on the job, especially in the first month, than at any other time.

Temporary workers need to understand their rights and duties before they go to a workplace. Employers at temporary agencies and host employers must be aware of their joint responsibility to make sure that these workers are prepared to work safely at their placements.

Temporary workers’ rights and duties

Temporary help workers are:

  • supplied to a host employer to work, generally for a short term  
  • paid by a temporary help staffing agency

Temporary help workers may be placed in a variety of short-term jobs in different workplaces. New and unfamiliar workplaces may make temporary workers more vulnerable to workplace health and safety hazards. Whether temporary or permanent, all workers have a right to a safe and healthy workplace.

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), temporary help agency workers have the same rights and duties as permanent workers. As a worker in Ontario, under the OHSA, you have the right to:

  • know about any workplace hazards you may be exposed to
  • participate in identifying workplace health and safety concerns and ask the supervisor or employer questions if concerned about your health and safety
  • refuse unsafe work according to the OHSA procedure governing work refusals

Like all workers, temporary workers play a key role in health and safety at the workplace. As a temporary worker, you must:

  • use the equipment that you are required to use
  • keep protective devices in place
  • wear safety gear that you are required to wear
  • report hazards (and violations of OHSA) immediately to your supervisor or employer at your job placement 

An employer must comply with the OHSA which includes:

  • providing you with information, instruction and supervision to protect your health and safety (for example, showing you how to put on and take off any personal protective equipment that you must use, like masks or gloves and training you to use tools and machinery safely)
  • telling you, or a person in authority over you, like a supervisor, about any hazards in the work they ask you to do, and hazards you may be exposed to in the general work environment as a worker, such as:
    • traffic hazards
    • fall hazards
    • exposure to chemicals
    • lifting or handling heavy objects
    • jobs involving repetitive movements
  • ensuring that equipment, materials and protective devices provided (for example, ladders, tools, safety glasses, reflective vests) are maintained in good condition

If you have health and safety concerns that have not been resolved by your host employer, report it to your temporary help agency employer. You can also contact the Health and Safety Contact Centre:

Always call 911 in an emergency.

Employers’ joint responsibilities

As an employer you have general duties set out in section 25 of the OHSA . These include the duty to:

  • acquaint a worker, or a person in authority over a worker, with any hazard in the work
  • make sure your supervisors are “competent persons” as defined by OHSA when you appoint them
  • develop a health and safety policy and maintain a program to implement that policy
  • provide information, instruction and supervision to protect worker health and safety
  • ensure that equipment, materials and protective devices are provided as required by law, maintained in good condition and are always used as required
  • assist and cooperate with health and safety representatives or joint health and safety committee members carrying out their functions
  • take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect all workers, including temporary help agency workers on assignment

Employer duties in the OHSA apply to both the host employer and the temporary agency employer.

Both employers are responsible for taking every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect the health and safety of the worker.

Each employer should consider the hazards it can address. For example, temporary help agencies might provide general health and safety training (like health and safety awareness training and WHMIS training), and host employers might provide:

  • specific instruction, training and supervision on the day-to-day work, which might include training to address the hazards of things such as:
    • moving vehicles (for example forklifts or backhoes)
    • machinery (for example conveyor belts, meat grinders or trash compactors)
    • working from heights
    • lifting or carrying objects or work involving repetitive motion
  • a written occupational health and safety policy tailored to the equipment and hazards specific to the workplace

The key is communication between the agency employer and the host employer to ensure the temporary help worker is protected and there are no gaps in training and addressing hazards.

Joint health and safety committees

Under subsection 9(2) of the OHSA, workplaces that have 20 or more regularly employed workers must generally have a joint health and safety committee (JHSC).

The ministry typically considers a worker who is filling a position at the host employer’s workplace as “regularly employed” if the position exceeds (or is expected to exceed) three months.

There may be situations where there is a high turnover of staff in a particular position, with each person working in it for less than three months. If the term of the position exceeds three months, the ministry recommends that the position should be included in the “regularly employed” count.

For more information on JHSCs, please see the Guide for health and safety committees and representatives


Section 50 of the OHSA prohibits employer reprisals. It is against the law for employers to threaten, intimidate, discipline, or dismiss workers for following the OHSA and regulations, exercising rights under the OHSA, and asking the employer to follow the OHSA.

The Office of the Worker Adviser can provide free and confidential services (advice, education and representation) on occupational health and safety reprisal issues for non-unionized workers.

The Office of the Employer Adviser can provide free and confidential services (advice, education and representation) on occupational health and safety reprisal issues to employers with fewer than 50 employees.


In case of an injury at work, you should get first aid immediately or medical care if needed. Tell your agency employer and the host employer about the injury.

Under the OHSA employers must notify certain parties (for example, the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development, the Joint Health and Safety Committee and any union in the workplace) of workplace injuries or illnesses in certain circumstances. The WSIB also imposes further reporting obligations on employers in case of a workplace injury.

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