Staying Safe on the Farm

January 3, 2018

By Cheryl DeCooman, CHRL and Danielle Pasztor, Farm Safety Specialist 

This past year there have been many news releases in Ontario in relation to agricultural related accidents, and unfortunately even deaths.  Regardless of whether we are harvesting corn, milking cows, planting vegetables or spreading manure, the risk of an agricultural accident is high. In fact, the farming industry is more dangerous than a manufacturing plant in many cases.  The workplace involves exposure to many dangers including toxic chemicals, interacting with livestock and large complicated equipment. 

In response to the growing number of farm related injuries, accidents and deaths, the Ontario legislation changed in 2006 to encompass farming under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, R.S.S.O. 1990, as well as the Ontario Regulation 414/05, Farming Operations. 

It was reported that from 1990 to 2012, there were 2,324 agriculture related fatalities in Canada.  This is an average of 101 fatalities each year[1]. During the first 12 years of the surveillance period (1990-2001) there was an average of 116 fatalities each year[2]. During the last 11 years (2002-2012) the average number of fatalities dropped to 85 each year[3].  Although we have seen a drop in fatalities, any fatality is too many. 

Many farming operations are working hard on implementing health and safety programs to promote the safety of their employees.  However some farmers believe they are exempt from these rules.  Basically, if you employ anyone other than family on your farm, then you need to know that the OHSACT and the Farming Operations Regulation 414/05 apply to you.  

So what can you do to start implementing a health and safety program? 

As an employer you should be ensuring all staff and visitors are aware of the hazards, that you are providing them with protective equipment/materials, outlining safe operating procedures and ensuring everyone has proper training for their role on the farm. With over 60% of farm fatalities being the owner-operator, it is important to follow all safety protocols yourself.

Supervisors should be ensuring that all the workers are following the safety protocols and using the protective equipment provided. They should also be advising workers on the hazards of the job and providing them on the job training. Documentation of this portion of training for employees is critical to ensure you can prove your compliance under the Act.

Finally, workers need to take their own safety seriously. By wearing protective equipment, reporting any hazards and following the safety procedures outlined by their employer they can mitigate safety risks. All workers have the right to refuse unsafe work, and should be reporting to the employer any time they do not feel safe doing a task.

Health and Safety Representatives should also be a part of the team. On farms with more than 5 paid employees (non-family) a health and safety representative is required. On farms with 20 or more employees, a joint health and safety committee, of at least 2 elected staff, is needed; one representing management and one representing employees.

As farming is (for the most part) a family business, it is important to protect not only our workers but our families as well. By following the Occupational Health and Safety Act, we are creating a safer workplace for everyone. Let’s make sure that at the end of the day, everyone makes it home safely from the barn. Farm safety starts with you!

For more information on how you can implement an agriculture specific health and safety program on your farm, contact Danielle Pasztor at

[1] Injury Prevention Centre (IPC), University of Alberta, “Agricultural –Related Fatalities in Canada” Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting, 2016,

[2] Ibid.,

[3] Ibid., 


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