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Farm Labour, Health and Safety: How Ontario Works

By: Bernard Tobin

December 7, 2015

View the non-AMP version.

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As the Bill 6 debate continues in Alberta, Real Agriculture is taking a look at how other provinces regulate farm labour, health and safety.

Are there lessons to be learned from how other provincial legislation was developed and how it’s constructed? Let’s take a look at Ontario.

In June 2006, Ontario agriculture was brought under the umbrella of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The creation of the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act for Alberta agriculture could create a similar level of regulation in Alberta.

Dean Anderson, strategic advisor for agriculture at Ontario’s Workplace Safety & Prevention Services, sees one very significant difference when he compares the Ontario and Alberta experiences – the speed of the process.

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“In Ontario, we took a year to bring farmers under the Act. We told farmers it was coming in 2005, but it did not come into place until 2006. The intent to add agriculture to the Act was first presented to the industry’s agricultural labour issues co-ordinating committee in 2003. “They agreed that farmer workers should have rights, but they wanted to build and enact them in a logical manner,” notes Anderson.

The process proceeded from there and included 12 months of working with the industry, getting feedback, writing regulations and informing farmers on how to comply with the legislation. Anderson says an entire year was committed to informing farmers about the act, getting feedback and writing regulations. At the time, Anderson and Ministry of Labour officials made over 200 presentations to get the word out.

A number of legislative acts govern agriculture in Ontario. The Employment Standards Act covers wages, vacation and hours of work. Under this Act there are many exemptions for agriculture. the Occupational, Health and Safety Act (OHS) covers health and safety in the workplace. Workers compensation is required for agriculture and is included in the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act . Ontario also has the Agricultural Employees Protection Act, which is the responsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture (not Labour). It allows farm employees to organize.

Here’s a closer look at specific questions on how farm labour, health and safety rules and regulations work in Ontario.

1 – Do farmers have to offer workers’ compensation?

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2 – How much does workers’ compensation cost?

3 – Do OHS rules apply on farms?

4 – Do rules regulating hours worked/employees/rest periods apply to farms?

5 – Can OHS inspectors visit farms unannounced?

6 – Can OHS inspectors investigate incidents?

7 – How do regulations apply to children?

8 – Do farm workers have the legal right to unionize?

9 – Is parental/maternity/sick leave, termination notice required?

10 – Does the minimum wage apply to farms?

Related: Consultation Critical to Making Farm Labour Legislation Workable: Manitoba Farm Leader