Farming operations soon to fall under OHSA

When Ontario’s Health and Safety Act (OHSA) was established in October, 1979, farming operations were exempt.
But as of June 30, 2006, a regulation passed by Queen’s Park earlier this year will come into effect, extending the OHSA to include farming operations with paid workers.
According to a recent press release, this means:
•the rights and duties for workers and employers outlined in the OHSA will apply;
•inspection and enforcement will apply; and
•both workers and employers will participate in workplace health and safety matters.
Farm operations without paid workers will continue to be exempt.
“It will effect everyone who has paid employees,” said Rudy Buitenhuis, the ag rep in Thunder Bay. “But there are different grades as to how it will be applied.”
Farming operations with six-19 employees will require a worker health and safety representative to help respond to health- and safety-related issues in the workplace.
And those with more than 20 employees also will need to implement a joint health and safety committee.
All farm workers will have the right to participate in decisions about health and safety at the workplace, to know about workplace hazards, and to refuse unsafe work.
The requirement in duties for employers will include each to provide information, instruction, and supervision to workers; to advise workers about hazards in the workplace; and to notify the Ministry of Labour of workplace fatalities and critical injuries.
Employers with six or more regularly-employed workers also have to develop an occupational health and safety policy and program.
Buitenhuis noted the change for Northwestern Ontario farmers likely will be relatively minimal compared to other areas which are more labour intensive. But the rights of the workers will change.
The Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs began working with the ag industry early in 2004 to develop the appropriate application of the OHSA to farming operations.
They will continue to work with the Farm Safety Association and the ag industry to “develop best practices to address specific hazards.”
Both ministries will be hosting public information sessions for both employers and employees regarding the OHSA and farming operations in the February and March.
One such session is slated for Tuesday, Feb. 21 from 1:30-4 p.m. (EST) at the Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel in Sudbury, with teleconference connections to Thessalon (Algoma), Mindemoya (Manitoulin), New Liskeard (Temiskaming), Thunder Bay, and Stratton (Rainy River).
“We’re definitely encouraging employees and employers to take advantage of the sessions to see what it’s all about,” Buitenhuis said.
For more information or to register for a session, contact the Northern Ontario regional office at 1-800-461-6132.