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“Worker” as Defined in OHSA

Definition of “Worker”

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), a “worker” is any of the following:

  1. A person who performs work or supplies services for monetary compensation.
  2. A secondary school student who performs work or supplies services for no monetary compensation under a work experience program authorized by the school board that operates the school in which the student is enrolled.
  3. A person who performs work or supplies services for no monetary compensation under a program approved by a college of applied arts and technology, university, private career college or other post-secondary institution.
  4. Repealed: 2017, c. 22, Sched. 1, s. 71 (2).
  5. Other persons who work or provide services to an employer for no money, who may be prescribed by regulation. (At this time, no such persons have been prescribed as a “worker” under the OHSA.)

The definition of “worker” does not include:

  • an inmate of a correctional institution or similar facility who participates inside the institution or facility in a work project or rehabilitation program;
  • a volunteer who works for no monetary payment of any kind.

Unpaid Students and Learners

Secondary School Students

Paragraph 2 in the definition of “worker” extends coverage of the OHSA to unpaid high school students who are performing work or supplying services in a work experience program authorized by their district school board. Several different forms of experiential learning are available to high school students to complement classroom learning. These include job shadowing, job twinning, virtual work experience, cooperative education, school-work transition programs and the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program.

The intent of paragraph 2 is to capture unpaid secondary school students whose activity at a workplace goes beyond observation of another person and involves the performance of actual work. Placements for students participating in a work experience program can occur at many different types of workplaces, such as a construction project, store, factory, school or hospital.

Persons in Post-Secondary School Programs

Paragraph 3 in the definition of “worker” extends coverage of the OHSA to unpaid post-secondary school students and other unpaid learners who work or supply services as part of a program approved by a post-secondary institution to gain work experience.

Many types of experiential learning programs are provided by post-secondary institutions including, apprenticeships, cooperative education, field experience, mandatory professional practice (e.g., for certification or licensure) and applied research projects. Individuals working or supplying services under one of these programs do not have to be students at the college, university, or private career college that approved the program, or at any college, university, or private career college. For example, they could be recent graduates or newcomers to Canada.

Note: Individuals in apprenticeships and post-secondary cooperative education placements are generally paid, and as such, were already covered by the OHSA prior to the addition of paragraph 3 to the definition of “worker.”