Working on a farm is unique. Farm workers and labourers often work outside, exposed to the elements, handle and care for animals, operate machinery, work independently or alongside others and work long hours.
Safe workplaces, proper legislation and workplace safety standards are necessary to all workplaces, including farms and agriculture. Supporting farmers who employ workers, rely on family workers or work independently is a priority for OFA.
COVID-19 Health and Safety Update
Agri-food as an essential service
Farms employees are deemed as essential to the economy at both the federal and provincial levels. Essential businesses can remain open; however, reducing contact between people and stopping the spread of COVID-19 remains a priority.
Workers entering Canada to work on farms as part of the Temporary foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) have also been deemed essential to the agri-food system.
Restrictions on movement off farm are continuing to escalate. If your workers need to prove their status as an essential worker, OFA has developed a template letter that can be modified to suit your business and printed for others to use when travelling off the farm for work-related reasons or for travelling from field to field. The letter also incorporates language related to the requirement for seasonal workers to complete a required 14-day self-isolation protocol upon arrival to Canada.
Access the essential worker template letters here: https://ofa.on.ca/resources/essential-worker-template-letter/
Health and Safety for Employees and TFW and SAWP workers
The COVID-19 pandemic is a rapidly changing global health crisis. We have compiled a list of resources to help manage health and safety on the farm during this crisis. These resources and others related to managing the farm during the COVID-19 crisis can be found on the main OFA COVID-19 webpage
Recommendations for health and safety for businesses and workers are emerging regularly. We will try to ensure this page is as up to date and as accurate as possible.
OFA’s Guide to Operating your Essential Farm Business during COVID-19 provides instruction and resources on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at the workplace: https://ofa.on.ca/resources/guide-to-operating-your-essential-farm-business-during-covid-19/
A Guide for Direct Sales to Consumers during COVID-19 and Beyond provides ideas and resources for alternative market channels available to you, general health and safety protocols when selling direct, how to set up your operation, keep your workforce safe, and market your operation using social media and other online tools.
Children’s safety on the farm
With the production season ramping up, and with schools and daycares closed, we need to be more aware of child safety on the farm, and choosing only age appropriate activities when involving children. We know this is easier said than done especially when childcare options may be limited and demands on time are many. Below are some resources to help create a safe farm for children.
Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA) Ag Youth Work Guidelines
For more information, visit https://www.casa-acsa.ca/en/resources/ag-youth-work-guidelines/
Keeping children engaged and safe on the farm during COVID-19
For more information, visit https://marshfieldresearch.org/COVID-19/resources/rural
Cultivate Safety – Provides online tools and resources to protect children on the farm
For more information, visit https://cultivatesafety.org/
Workplace Safety and Insurance Board
Understanding how workers compensation will function during the COVID-19 can be confusing. WSIB has provided a list of frequently asked questions about how claims will be addressed.
COVID-19: FAQs about WSIB claims
For more information, visit https://www.wsib.ca/en/covid-19-faqs-about-wsib-claims
Summary of government financial assistance for Ontario farm businesses
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, both the Canadian government and the Ontario government have announced financial assistance measures for individuals and businesses, including farm businesses. OFA has developed a summary of existing programs and new financial assistance measures that may be relevant to Ontario farm businesses.
For more information, visit ofa.on.ca/resources/summary-of-government-financial-assistance-for-ontario-farm-businesses.
New Worker Orientation: Seasonal Agricultural Worker
This video was created to assist agricultural employers with orientation of their seasonal agricultural workers. It is intended to be used in connection with company/site specific information and resources.
The video covers 14 topics: worker rights, bullying and harassment, fit for duty, postures stretching and lifting, heat disorders, pesticide safety, WHMIS 2015, hand washing, confined spaces, agricultural machinery safety, personal protective equipment, ladder safety, emergency information.
The video was created by AgSafe BC. All practices addressed are equally applicable to Ontario agricultural workplaces.
ENGLISH – https://youtu.be/wjaHTwM9Rps
SPANISH – https://youtu.be/gRWu1Nro6CQ
OFA represents the interests of Ontario’s farm businesses – the employers of farm labour. In that role, we take our obligations to farm workers seriously and believe that all farm workers, from both Canada and abroad, should be treated with dignity and respect, and be provided with a safe, fair and rewarding work environment.
Agricultural workplaces may involve close interactions with livestock, large and complex equipment and dangerous chemicals. It can be hazardous for farm operators, employees, family members and visitors. However, each Ontario farm operation is unique and requires a flexible and suited approach to ensuring employee health and safety and to matching human resources with the demands of farming.
OFA believes that legislated workplace standards must be sufficiently flexible to balance the challenges of agricultural production with the needs of farm workers. The current application of workplace legislation to the agricultural sector provides the necessary flexibility to accommodate these factors and must be maintained.
While OFA supports the principle of providing jobs to Canadians first, foreign labour is also required to fill a significant and ever-increasing shortfall in farm labour. OFA supports access to foreign agricultural labour, provided there is a shortage of Canadian workers seeking agricultural employment.
Building on their shared values and a relationship forged over many years, Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS) and OFA have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to formalize their commitment to work together to address key safety issues affecting Ontario farmers, agriculture employees and farm families.
As part of the agreement, OFA will continue to sit on the WSPS Agriculture Horticulture Advisory Committee to provide insight and guidance on agricultural matters. OFA will also utilize their Member Service Representative network and regional county federations of agriculture to assist in the distribution of farm safety resources.
WSPS is the largest health & safety association in Ontario, responsible for more than 167,000 member firms across the agricultural, industrial/manufacturing and service sectors.