OFA provided comments to the Ministry of Labour, Training, and Skills Development (MLTSD) regarding the proposed new regulation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). OFA agrees in principle with the concept of a heat stress regulation under OHSA. However, OFA is concerned that elements of the proposed regulation appear unnecessarily prescriptive and may produce excessive burden on the employer community.
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 recommends the proposed regulation should included explicit reference to a worker’s duty to report signs of heat stress to their employer and/or supervisor and that the worker is required to take appropriate action(s) according to established workplace health and safety policies. OFA believes this regulation should focus less on prescriptive heat exposure limits and rather focus on raising awareness and education among employers, and building the capacity of employers to develop a workplace heat stress plan.
Should the new regulation proceed, we believe there is a strong need for MLITSD to develop operational guidance on how it will be interpreted within the context of agricultural workplaces to avoid the potential for overly broad or inconsistent interpretation, confusion, or delays that can impact farming operations and threaten Canada’s food security. Where applicable, operational guidance should be developed in collaboration with farm employers and Ontario’s Health and Safety Associations (HAS) to ensure consistency and bring clarity to definitions and procedures regarding what efforts can reasonably be expected to achieve compliance with heat stress exposure limits.
OFA recommends MLTSD provide significant, early outreach to employers through multiple communication channels explaining clearly how employers may reasonably and practically implement it at the farm workplace.