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Temporary Help Agency Assignment Workers:
Know your occupational health and safety rights and duties

  • Issued: June 8, 2012
  • Content last reviewed: April 2013

Disclaimer: This resource has been prepared to help the workplace parties understand some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and regulations. It is not legal advice. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations. For further information please see full disclaimer.

Please read this if you are employed by a temporary help agency to perform temporary work assignments for clients of the agency (i.e., the client employer) in the client’s workplace. This information sheet summarizes some of your health and safety rights and duties under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). The agency — and the client where the agency places you — both have employer duties under the law to protect your health and safety.

Worker rights and duties

Under the OHSA, temporary help agency workers have the same rights and duties as permanent workers.

By law, you have the right to:

  • Know about any workplace hazards to which you may be exposed.
  • Participate in identifying workplace health and safety concerns and ask the supervisor or employer questions if concerned about your health and safety.
  • Refuse unsafe work. The OHSA sets out a specific procedure that must be followed in a work refusal.

You must:

  • Work safely — use the equipment that you are required to use — and use it properly — in the way you were trained to use it. Keep protective devices in place. Wear your safety gear.
  • Report hazards (and violations of OHSA) right away to your supervisor or employer at your job placement.

If your concern is not resolved by the client employer at the place where you are doing the work, report it to your temporary help agency employer or contact the Ministry of Labour.

Agency and client employer duties under the law

An employer must:

  • Provide you with information, instruction and supervision to protect your health and safety.
  • Tell you or a person in authority over you about any hazards in the work they ask you to do, as well as hazards you may be exposed to in the general work environment as a new worker, such as traffic hazards, etc.
  • Ensure that equipment, materials and protective devices provided are maintained in good condition.

Call the Ministry of Labour – toll-free

Call 1-877-202-0008 between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Monday-Friday for general inquiries about workplace health and safety. Always call 911 in an emergency.

Employer reprisals are prohibited by law

Section 50 of the OHSA prohibits employer reprisals. It is against the law for employers to threaten, intimidate, discipline, or dismiss workers for following the OHSA and regulations, exercising rights under the OHSA, and asking the employer to follow the OHSA.

A worker who believes that the employer has taken reprisal against him or her for exercising his or her rights and responsibilities under the OHSA may file a complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB). The OLRB will provide forms for filing reprisal complaints. A worker claiming to have been fired in an OHSA-related reprisal can also consent to having a Ministry of Labour inspector refer the reprisal allegation to the OLRB on the worker’s behalf, if the worker has not filed a complaint to the OLRB.

The OLRB can look into a worker’s complaint and try to mediate a settlement between the employer and worker. If a settlement cannot be reached, an OLRB hearing may be required. The Board may remove or change any penalty the employer may have imposed. The Office of the Worker Adviser (OWA) or the Toronto Workers’ Health & Safety Legal Clinic can provide non union workers with free advice on filing complaints and representation at mediations and hearings before the OLRB. For more information, visit the OLRB’s web site or call toll-free: 1-877-339-3335 (8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday to Friday).

In case of injury at work

Get first aid immediately or medical care if needed. Tell your agency employer and the agency client about the injury. The OHSA imposes a duty on employers to notify certain parties (e.g., Ministry of Labour, Joint Health and Safety Committee, etc.) of workplace injuries or illnesses in certain circumstances.

For information about workers’ Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) rights and obligations, call the WSIB toll-free at 1-800-465-5606 (7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday) or visit the WSIB web site.

Disclaimer: This web resource has been prepared to assist the workplace parties in understanding some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and the regulations. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations and reference should always be made to the official version of the legislation.

It is the responsibility of the workplace parties to ensure compliance with the legislation. This web resource does not constitute legal advice. If you require assistance with respect to the interpretation of the legislation and its potential application in specific circumstances, please contact your legal counsel.

While this web resource will also be available to Ministry of Labour inspectors, they will apply and enforce the OHSA and its regulations based on the facts as they may find them in the workplace. This web resource does not affect their enforcement discretion in any way.