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4. Duties of Employers, Supervisors, Workers, and Suppliers

Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) applies with some limitations and exceptions, to all farming operations that have paid workers. This chapter outlines the duties under the Act of employers, supervisors, workers, and suppliers on farming operations.

General Duties of Employers on Farming Operations

An employer on a farming operation who is covered by the Act has an obligation to:

  • instruct, inform and supervise workers to protect their health and safety [section 25(2)(a)];
  • assist in a medical emergency by providing any information--including confidential business information--to a qualified medical practitioner who requests the information in order to diagnose or treat any person [section 25(2)(b)];
  • appoint competent persons as supervisors [section 25(2)(c)]. "Competent person" has a very specific meaning under the Act. He or she 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;
    • know about any actual or potential danger to health and safety in the workplace;[ 1 ]
  • acquaint a worker, or a person in authority over a worker, with any hazard in the work and in the handling, storage, use, disposal and transport of any article, device, equipment, or biological, chemical or physical agent [section 25(2)(d)];
  • provide assistance and co-operation to worker health and safety representatives and joint health and safety committees (if either are required) when carrying out their functions [section 25(2)(e)];
  • take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker [section 25(2)(h)];
  • ensure that the equipment, materials and protective devices provided by the employer are maintained in good condition [section 25(1)(b)];
  • post in the workplace a copy of the OHSA, as well as explanatory material that has been prepared by the Ministry of Labour that outlines the rights, responsibilities and duties of workers. If the majority language of a workplace is a language other than English, and if the Ministry has prepared explanatory material in that language, the employer must post the explanatory material both in English and in the majority language [section 25(2)(i)];
  • where there are more than five employees regularly employed at the workplace, prepare a written occupational health and safety policy, review that policy at least once a year and set up a program to implement it [sections 25(2)(j) and 25(4)]. For guidance on how to do this, see Appendix A. Employers must also post a copy of the occupational health and safety policy in the workplace, where workers will be most likely to see it [section 25 (2)(k)];
  • provide the worker health and safety representative or joint health and safety committee (if either is required) with the results of any occupational health and safety report that the employer has. If the report is in writing, the employer must also provide a copy of the relevant parts of the report [section 25(2)(1)];
  • advise workers of the results of such a report. If the report is in writing, the employer must, on request, make available to workers copies of those portions that concern occupational health and safety [section 25(2)(m)]; and
  • ensure that every part of the physical structure of the workplace can support all loads to which it may be subjected, in accordance with the Building Code Act [section 25(1)(e)].

Duties of Employers Concerning 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.

When it comes to toxic substances in the workplace, employers have a general obligation to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker. They must also provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker with respect to toxic substances to protect his or her health and safety.

Notices Required from Employers

If an injury, illness, or fatality occurs at the workplace, the employer has the following duties to notify certain people:

1) Where there is a Critical Injury or Death

If a person, whether a worker or not (this includes, for example, supervisors, employers, workers, unpaid family members, and visitors), has been critically injured (see definition below) or killed at the workplace, the employer must immediately notify an inspector at the nearest Ministry of Labour office, and the worker health and safety representative or joint health and safety committee (if any). This notice must be by telephone or other direct means.

A "critical injury" is an injury of a serious nature that,

  1. places life in jeopardy,
  2. produces unconsciousness,
  3. results in substantial loss of blood
  4. nvolves the fracture of a leg or arm but not a finger or toe,
  5. involves the amputation of a leg, arm, hand or foot but not a finger or toe,
  6. consists of burns to a major portion of the body, or
  7. causes the loss of sight in an eye. [Regulation 834]

Within 48 hours, the employer must also notify, in writing, a Regional Director of the Ministry of Labour, giving the circumstances of the occurrence [section 51(1)].

Please see Appendix C for a list of Ministry of Labour offices.

Please see Appendix D for a list of the information recommended by the Ministry of Labour to be included in a written notice of critical injury or fatality and notice of occurrence or occupational illness.

2) Where there is an Injury that is not a Critical Injury

If an accident, explosion or fire occurs and a worker is disabled or requires medical attention, the employer must notify the worker health and safety representative or joint health and safety committee (if any) in writing within four days of the incident. If required by an inspector, this written notice must also be given to a Regional Director of the Ministry of Labour (Appendix D) [section 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 (WSIB), the employer must notify a Regional Director of the Ministry of Labour, and the worker health and safety representative or joint health and safety committee (if any) within four days. The notice must be in writing. This duty to notify applies not only with respect to current employees, but also with respect to former ones (Appendix D) [section 52(3)].

Generally, an occupational illness is any condition or illness that is caused by factors associated with the workplace. It is defined in the Act 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. It includes, but is not limited, to an occupational disease for which a worker is entitled to benefits under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997.

Duties of Supervisors

The Act sets out certain specific duties for supervisors. A supervisor means a person who has charge of a workplace or authority over a worker. A supervisor must:

  • ensure that a worker complies with the Act and regulations [section 27(1)(a)];
  • ensure that any equipment, protective device or clothing required by the employer is used or worn by the worker [section 27(1)(b)];
  • advise a worker of any potential or actual health or safety dangers known by the supervisor [section 27(2)(a)]; and
  • take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of workers [section 27(2)(c)].

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 is in good condition. The supplier must also maintain the equipment in good condition if this is his or her responsibility under the rental or leasing arrangement [section 31(1)]. This section does not apply to equipment that is sold to a workplace.

Duties of Corporate Officers and Directors

Every officer and director of a corporation must take all reasonable care to ensure that the corporation complies with the Act and regulations as well as with any orders and requirements of Ministry of Labour inspectors or Directors, and the Minister of Labour [section 32].

Duties of Workers

Workers also have several general duties under the Act. Workers must take responsibility for their own health and safety at the workplace insofar as they are able. Under the Act, a worker must:

  • work in compliance with the Act and regulations [section 28(1)(a)];
  • use or wear any equipment, protective devices or clothing required by the employer [section 28(1)(b)];
  • report to the employer or supervisor any known missing or defective equipment or protective device that may be dangerous to any worker[section 28(1)(c)];
  • report any known workplace hazard to the employer or supervisor [section 28(1)(d)];
  • report any known contravention of the Act or regulations to the employer or supervisor [section 28(1)(d)];
  • not remove or make ineffective any protective device required by the employer [section 28(2)(a)];[ 2 ]
  • not use or operate any equipment or work in a way that may endanger himself or herself, or any other worker [section 28(2)(b)]; and
  • not engage in any prank, contest, feat of strength, unnecessary running or rough and boisterous conduct [section 28(2)(c)].

[ 1 ]Employers may appoint themselves as supervisors if they meet all three qualifications [section 25(3)].

[ 2 ]The only exception to this rule is if one can provide an adequate temporary protective device. Once there is no longer a need to remove the required protective device or to make it ineffective, it must be replaced immediately.

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