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Expanded Definition of Worker under the Occupational Health and Safety Act

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.

Effective immediately, the new definition of worker under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) expands coverage of the OHSA to unpaid co-op students, certain other learners and trainees participating in a work placement in Ontario.

Specifically, the new definition of worker now includes:

  • Unpaid secondary school students who are participating in a work experience program, authorized by the school board that operates the school in which the students are enrolled,
  • Other unpaid learners participating in a program approved by a post-secondary institution, and,
  • Any unpaid trainees who are not employees for the purposes of the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) because they meet certain conditions.

Volunteers are not covered by this new definition of worker.

If you are an unpaid co-op student, learner or trainee as described above, you now have the same rights under the OHSA as paid workers such as the right to know about hazards and to refuse unsafe work. You also have the same duties as a paid worker, such as wearing and using protective equipment and not doing anything that may harm or endanger yourself or others in the workplace.

If you are an employer or supervisor, this means that you have the same duties towards an unpaid co-op student and other unpaid trainees and learners at your workplace that you have toward your paid workers.

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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.