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Section 4: Personal Protective Equipment: Occupational Health and Safety Guidelines for Farming Operations in Ontario


The Occupational Health and Safety Guidelines for Farming Operations in Ontario were developed to highlight specific, and sometimes unique and unusual hazards on farms. They were jointly prepared by representatives of the farming community, the Farm Safety Association (now Workplace Safety and Prevention Services), the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the Ministry of Labour.

The purpose of the guidelines is to help employers, supervisors and workers on farms recognize hazards and determine the ways they may best comply with their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), and the relevant regulations. The guidelines provide general information to those in the workplace to help them identify specific hazards and dangerous situations. The guidelines may also provide the workplace parties with suggestions to consider in determining how to protect worker health and safety and to prevent injuries.

It is important to understand that the guidelines do not replace the laws that are in place. Employers, supervisors and workers on farms have responsibilities and rights under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the following three regulations under the Act: Regulation for Farming Operations, O. Reg. 414/05, Critical Injury Defined, R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 834 and Occupational Health and Safety Awareness and Training, O. Reg. 297/13. The requirements in the OHSA and these three regulations must be complied with.

Employers have a legal obligation to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of workers; and, supervisors and workers must take appropriate steps to identify and address all workplace hazards. The guidelines are a starting point for the workplace parties to think about how to fulfill their obligations under the OHSA. Following the recommendations suggested in these guidelines does not relieve the workplace parties of their obligations to comply with the OHSA.

This is the first edition of the guidelines. They will be reviewed and updated on an ongoing basis, as needed, and expanded as new production methods and technologies emerge.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) should be used to reduce or prevent a worker's exposure to health and safety hazards on a farming operation. There are many different types of PPE including respirators, safety boots, goggles, ear plugs/muffs, hard hats, gloves, chaps and fall arrest devices.

This section covers the following topics:


Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS):
A document that contains information about a hazardous substance, including the potential health effects of exposure and how to handle the substance safely. Material Safety Data Sheets are generally available from the supplier of the product

General Responsibilities

  1. The employer shall ensure that PPE is used where appropriate.
  2. The employer shall provide information, instruction and supervision to workers on the proper use and maintenance of PPE. Instruction should include, but not be limited to:
    • how to properly fit and wear PPE;
    • when PPE should be worn;
    • how to care for PPE and identify when it requires repair, cleaning or disposal;
    • how PPE provides protection and the consequences of not wearing it.
  3. The employer should assess each work process and job task on the farm and determine where PPE may be needed to protect workers. PPE should be used as a last resort if the hazard cannot be controlled by other means such as engineering controls, (for example, ventilation), redesign of work processes, or using less toxic substances.
  4. The worker shall use PPE provided by, and as required by, the employer.
  5. Where a chemical or other hazardous product endangers the health or safety of a worker, PPE should be worn according to the product manufacturer's instructions on either a warning label or MSDS.
  6. The employer should monitor the use of PPE to ensure that it provides adequate protection for the worker and does not cause undue discomfort or create new hazards while being used.
  7. The worker shall inform the employer of any defects in the PPE, which the worker is aware of and which could endanger the worker.

Types of Personal Protective Equipment

Hearing Protection

  1. Hearing protection should be worn in work environments where noise levels exceed 85 decibels.

    In limited circumstances, a worker may be exposed to noise levels above 85 decibels without wearing hearing protection, but the acceptable duration of such an exposure will vary depending upon the noise level (in decibels).

  2. There are many types of hearing protection, including earplugs or muffs. Hearing protection that is suitable for the work environment and provides adequate noise reduction should be chosen.

Respiratory Protection

There are many types of respirators available to protect against a variety of atmospheric hazards. It is important that the respirator being used for a particular job protects against the hazard in question. Using the wrong respirator can be as dangerous as not wearing one at all. All respirators must fit well and provide a proper seal with the wearer's face in order to provide adequate protection.
  1. Disposable respirators should be used where dusts, mists and fumes may be present. They must not be used in oxygen deficient atmospheres.
  2. Chemical cartridge respirators should be used to filter out gases and organic vapours. These respirators are hazard-specific, meaning that a cartridge designed to filter out a particular gas will not protect a worker from exposure to a different gas. They must not be used in oxygen deficient atmospheres.
  3. Powered air purifying respirators should be used where there may be excessive dust levels or pesticides. These respirators:
    • have replaceable cartridges that are hazard-specific
    • are operated by battery
    • have a constant air flow, facilitating breathing
    • must not be used in oxygen deficient atmospheres.
  4. Gas masks should be used for high concentrations of specific gases. They usually have a full face piece and canister attached. They must not be used in oxygen deficient atmospheres.
  5. Supplied air respirators should be used in highly toxic and oxygen deficient atmospheres. Users should be well trained. Such equipment:
    • comes with the air supply in a tank
    • comes with a small emergency bottle
    • has positive pressure for use in toxic atmospheres
    • should never be used alone
    • should be used according to confined space entry procedures. (See Guideline on Hazardous Atmospheres and Confined Spaces)

Eye Protection

Eye protection should be used where there is a danger of flying objects, particles, liquids, sprays or other matter entering the eyes. Protection can take many forms including:

  • safety glasses,
  • goggles, or
  • full face protection.

Foot Protection

Foot protection is usually in the form of steel-toed work boots, with a steel shank to protect the bottom of the foot from puncture wounds. In wet environments, steel-toed boots that are waterproof and slip-resistant may be necessary. The hazards that workers are exposed to will determine what type of foot protection is most appropriate for the job.

Hand Protection

Gloves offer good protection for the hands. They may be made of many different materials--cotton, leather, rubber, or other materials impervious to liquids. Gloves should be chosen for the specific hazard and job task.

Head Protection

Hard hats, bump caps, or helmets are types of protection that should be considered if there is a hazard of head injury. Head injuries can occur under various circumstances including as the result of a slip or fall, working with unpredictable animals, working in confined areas or where there are low ceilings or where there may be falling objects.

Body Protection

Body protection may be required in various situations including dusty environments or when spraying liquid pesticides or handling dangerous chemicals. The hazard to be controlled will determine the type of protection that is most appropriate, for example, an apron, coveralls or a full rain suit.

When using a chainsaw, protective chaps or leg protection should be worn.

Fall Protection

Fall protection includes the use of safety belts, harnesses and lifelines to prevent injury due to a fall from a height. (See Guideline on Fall, Slips and Trips )

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