OFA advised the Ministry of Labour, Training, and Skills Development (MLTSD) that a regulatory approach to address air quality concerns in outdoor workplaces is not necessary and that OFA believes a regulatory approach would not be any more effective to protect workers than providing employers with information, tools, and advice.
OFA maintains that a guideline approach rather than prescriptive regulations is a preferred way to address farm workplace health and safety issues.
When a regulatory approach is sought to resolve an issue, OFA advocates for regulations to be practical, flexible, and present the lowest possible burden on employers to achieve the intended outcomes. OFA believes that poor outdoor air quality is currently best addressed through the general duty clause of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) – Section 25 (2)(h) [employers must] take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker.
The nature of agricultural production typically requires farm employees to work outdoors in a range of weather conditions that can often change quickly. While we recognize that outdoor air quality will be an increasing concern in the future, we believe 25 (2)(h) general duty clause provides the flexibility that will allow employers to manage the workplace and respond to instances of poor air quality in the best interests of workers.
Within the context of 25(2)(h), OFA believes MLITSD should work with Ontario’s Health and Safety Associations (HSA) to develop a guideline approach to properly respond to instances of poor air quality and protect the health and safety of workers. The focus of the Ministry and HSAs should be on raising awareness and educating employers on the health and safety concerns of poor outdoor air quality. Guidelines could include how to monitor poor air quality, how to develop a response plan for poor air quality events, the appropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE), and additional best practices to remove potential harm and protect workers.