OFA: Farm owners advised to comply with new labour requirements before busy season

By Keith Currie, Vice-President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture

It’s springtime on the farm, and along with warmer temperatures, many Ontario farmers are also welcoming back seasonal employees to help with the busy season ahead. But this year, farm owners with employees on the payroll have new regulations to comply with.

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Last fall, Ontario’s Ministry of Labour announced that all workplaces covered under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) – including farms – must ensure that workers and supervisors have completed a basic health and safety awareness training program by July 1, 2014. It’s worth noting that anyone who draws a wage is considered an employee – including family members.

Farm owners will be required to provide the training to workers and supervisors, outlining general awareness of rights and responsibilities of employers and employees under the act. The new minimum content of training for workers also includes instructions on common workplace hazards and occupational illness. For supervisors – and most farm owners are considered workplace supervisors – training includes instruction on how to recognize, assess and control workplace hazards, and how to evaluate those hazards.

The Ministry of Labour has provided a number of free options for workers and supervisors to complete the training. Training resources are available in multiple languages and include an online e-learning module, a printable workbook, and printed workbooks that can be ordered from Service Ontario Publications. The ministry estimates both the employee and supervisor training should take less than hour to complete. All training resources are free of charge and can be completed by your employees at the workplace, or farm.

While farm owners are not required to report the completed training to the ministry, they must maintain a record of completion for all workers and supervisors, and be able to present it if a ministry inspector visits the farm or workplace. This record may be as simple as an employee signing and dating their workbook.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture encourages farm owners to complete the training with farm employees. This is now a mandatory requirement and a necessary step to ensure the health and safety of everyone working on Ontario farms. For a complete checklist to help with a simple and practical understanding of the Occupational Health and Safety Act as well as the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act and the Employment Standards Act, visit www.ofa.on.ca. Let’s keep our families and employees safe this growing season.