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Guidelines Part 3

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Guidelines Part 3 - Occupational health and safety programs

G3.1 Occupational health and safety program

Issued March 30, 2004; Revised October 26, 2005; Revised May 17, 2006; Editorial Revision February 1, 2008; Editorial Revision February 12, 2009

Regulatory excerpt
Section 3.1 of the OHS Regulation ("Regulation") states:

3.1 (1) An occupational health and safety program as outlined in section 3.3 must be initiated and maintained

(a) by each employer that has

(i) a workforce of 20 or more workers, and

(ii) at least one workplace that is determined under section 3.16 (2) (b) to create a moderate or high risk of injury, or

(b) by each employer that has a workforce of 50 or more workers.

(1.1) If subsection (1) (a) or (b) applies to the employer, the occupational health and safety program applies to the whole of the employer's operations.

(2) Despite subsection (1) an occupational health and safety program may be required in any workplace when, in the opinion of an officer, such a program is necessary.

Purpose of guideline
The purpose of this guideline is to provide criteria for counting workers in an employer's workforce for considering whether an occupational health and safety ("OHS") program is required under section 3.1(1), provide WorkSafeBC prevention officers with factors to consider when exercising their discretion under section 3.1(2); discuss benefits of OHS programs; and reference available information on occupational health and safety management systems.

Criteria for counting workers for the purpose of section 3.1(1)
In determining the number of workers for the purpose of section 3.1(1), the following workers should be considered part of the employer's workforce, regardless of how they or their employers define their status:

  • Workers employed for more than one month
  • Workers who are employed for less than one month, but have worked for the employer periodically.

Note: Other sections of the Regulation and Workers Compensation Act ("Act") also have requirements that relate to the number of workers. For criteria for counting workers for other requirements, see also

Considerations for prevention officers when exercising their discretion under section 3.1(2)
In addition to those employers who are required to initiate and maintain an OHS program under section 3.1(1), some other types of employers should also initiate and maintain health and safety programs. Section 3.1(2) provides that an OHS program may be required in any workplace when, in the opinion of a prevention officer, such a program is necessary.

A prevention officer who encounters a situation where all of the following conditions are present should consider requiring the employer to initiate and maintain an OHS program pursuant to section 3.1(2) of the Regulation:

  • The employer has a workforce of less than 20 workers
  • Those workers are exposed to high risks
  • An OHS program is essential to the health and safety of workers.

In deciding whether to require an OHS program in the above situation, the prevention officer should consider whether such a program could be effectively initiated and maintained by the employer for each workplace where work is being performed for the benefit of that employer.

Benefits of an OHS program for all workplaces
Even though an employer may not be required to initiate and maintain an OHS program, OHS programs can provide a number benefits. For example, OHS programs enable an employer to control its occupational health and safety risks, improve health and safety performance, communicate its health and safety commitments and policies to staff, and provide a framework for attaining its health and safety goals and objectives. Further, OHS programs assist with implementation by delineating roles, responsibilities, and accountability for tasks, including checking and corrective action as the program evolves. A properly implemented OHS program can be expected to reduce injuries and the associated costs of disability and lost production hours.

Occupational health and safety management systems
Whether for a small or large employer, occupational health and safety can be managed in the same way that the employer manages other facets of the organization's activities (e.g. quality, production, environment, finances customer service etc). An occupational health and safety management system (OHSMS) can help organizations reduce or prevent injuries, illnesses and fatalities in the workplace by providing a framework for corporate behaviour in OHS management. An OHSMS relies on commitment, leadership and worker participation to achieve its outcomes.

CSA Z1000-06 Occupational Health and Safety Management is a consensus-based Canadian national standard for occupational health and safety management, created by labour, business, and government representatives. The standard is structured using the Plan-Do-Check-Act approach also used in other management system standards (e.g. ANSI/AIHA Z10-2005, ILO-OSH 2001, OHSAS 18001-1999 and ISO 14001:2004). CSA Z1000-06 includes the following elements:

  • Commitment, Leadership and Participation
    Establishment and maintenance of an OHS Policy
    Roles, responsibilities and accountability for worker and employer representatives
  • Plan
    Incorporation of applicable legal and other requirements
    Hazard identification; risk assessment
    Documentation of OHS objectives and targets
  • Do
    Preventive and protective measures to address identified hazards
    and risks
    Emergency prevention, preparedness, and response
    Competence and training
    Communication and awareness
    Procurement and contracting
    Management of change
    Documentation (document and records control)
  • Check
    Monitoring and measurement of OHS performance and system effectiveness
    Incident investigation and analysis
    Internal audit of OHSMS
    Preventive and corrective action
  • Act
    Management review and continual improvement

All of the elements of the standard are intended to be incorporated into an OHSMS but the extent of the application will depend on the circumstances particular to each organization, such as the nature and location of its operations and the conditions in which it functions.

While not a requirement under the Regulation, WorkSafeBC recommends the use of OHS management systems and endorses CSA Z1000-06 for use by employers in BC.

G3.1-2 Farm labour contractors and growers - Responsibilities and OHS programs

Issued July 5, 2007; Editorial Revision February 1, 2008; Editorial Revision January 1, 2009

Regulatory excerpt
Responsibilities for worker health and safety are established by the Workers Compensation Act ("Act") and the OHS Regulation ("Regulation"). Farm labour contractors are considered to be the employers of the farm workers they provide to agricultural operations. As such they have responsibilities under the Act, for example in section 115. They also have responsibilities under the Regulation, for example for occupational health and safety programs under section 3.1.

Section 115 of the Act states:

115 General duties of employers

Every employer must:

(a) ensure the health and safety of
(i) all workers working for that employer, and
(ii) any other workers present at a workplace at which that employer's work is being carried out, and

(b) comply with this Part, the regulations and any applicable orders.

(2) Without limiting subsection (1), an employer must

(a) remedy any workplace conditions that are hazardous to the health or safety of the employer's workers,

(b) ensure that the employer's workers
(i) are made aware of all known or reasonably foreseeable health or safety hazards to which they are likely to be exposed by their work,
(ii) comply with this Part, the regulations and any applicable orders, and
(iii) are made aware of their rights and duties under this Part and the regulations,

(c) establish occupational health and safety policies and programs in accordance with the regulations,

(d) provide and maintain in good condition protective equipment, devices and clothing as required by regulation and ensure that these are used by the employer's workers,

(e) provide to the employer's workers the information, instruction, training and supervision necessary to ensure the health and safety of those workers in carrying out their work and to ensure the health and safety of other workers at the workplace,

(f) make a copy of this Act and the regulations readily available for review by the employer's workers and, at each workplace where workers of the employer are regularly employed, post and keep posted a notice advising where the copy is available for review,

(g) consult and cooperate with the joint committees and worker health and safety representatives for workplaces of the employer, and

(h) cooperate with the Board, officers of the Board and any other person carrying out a duty under this Part or the regulations.

Section 3.1 of the Regulation states:

3.1 When program required

(1) An occupational health and safety program as outlined in section 3.3 must be initiated and maintained

(a) by each employer that has
(i) a workforce of 20 or more workers, and
(ii) at least one workplace that is determined under section 3.16 (2) (b) to create a moderate or high risk of injury, or

(b) by each employer that has a workforce of 50 or more workers.

(1.1) If subsection (1)(a) or (b) applies to the employer, the occupational health and safety program applies to the whole of the employer's operations.

(2) Despite subsection (1) an occupational health and safety program may be required in any workplace when, in the opinion of an officer, such a program is necessary.

Purpose of guideline
The purpose of this guideline is to

  • Provide background information on farm labour contractors (FLCs) and their role as employers of farm workers
  • Describe circumstances in which the contractor has an obligation to establish a formal occupational health and safety program, and lists the elements that would typically be covered in the programs
  • Describe circumstances in which informal programs are required, and what they would include
  • Discuss the occupational health and safety responsibilities of growers who use contractors to provide services of farm workers in their operations
  • Provide five examples of how the responsibilities of FLCs apply to the protection of farm workers, in comparison to the responsibilities of the grower: worker transport vehicles, personal protective equipment, first aid, protection from hazardous materials, and training

Farm labour contractors and their responsibilities as employers
Farm labour contractors are licensed under the Employment Standards Act. Lists of licensed FLCs are maintained by the Employment Standards Branch at http://www.labour.gov.bc.ca/esb/agriculture/flclist.htm, along with information on the crops serviced and the number of workers for which the FLCs are bonded. In April 2007, about 100 FLCs were listed, bonded for approximately 6,900 workers.

Most FLCs provide services to the vegetable, berry, nursery, and greenhouse sectors, but some deal in other sectors such as poultry, tree fruits, and vineyards. Most are based in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley, but a number operate elsewhere, particularly in the Okanagan region.

FLCs are considered employers because of the nature of their contractual arrangements with farm workers. As such they have all the responsibilities of employers under the Act and the Regulation.

When do requirements for formal OHS programs apply?
OHS Guideline G3.1 (Occupational health and safety program) provides detailed information on the application of section 3.1 of the Regulation. It discusses how to count workers for the purposes of determining whether a formal occupational health and safety (OHS) program is required, and outlines considerations that will be used by WorkSafeBC prevention officers when exercising their discretion to require a formal OHS program under section 3.2 of the Regulation. A brief summary of the main points from the guideline is provided below.

Workers are included in the count if they are employed for more than a month. In addition they are included if they have currently worked for less than a month but have previously worked periodically for the employer. As noted in section 3.1(1.1) of the Regulation the count of workers covers all the operations of the employer. This is particularly important to an FLC who provides workers to a number of different farming operations. The count is to include all workers who work for the FLC, not just to those assigned to a particular farming operation.

As noted in section 3.1(1) of the Regulation, if an employer employs workers in at least one moderate or high risk operation there must be a formal OHS program if the total workforce in all operations is 20 workers or more. For all other situations there must be at least 50 workers in the count before a formal OHS program is required. (Most FLCs are bonded for workforces of 20 or more workers and are likely to be involved in at least one moderate risk operation.)

The hazard rating for a farm labour contractor is based on the hazard rating for the farming operations to which the FLC provides the workers. Unless a hazard assessment demonstrates otherwise, most of the operations typically serviced by FLCs are moderate risk. Examples include: berry farms, greenhouse operations, vegetable farms, and orchards. In any case where an FLC provides workers to at least one moderate risk operation, the FLC must provide a formal OHS program for all their workers if they have a total workforce of 20 or more workers, regardless of whether the FLC's other workers are engaged in low risk work.

Under section 3.1(2) of the Regulation a prevention officer may require a formal OHS program even if it is not required under section 3.1(1). This may apply where the workforce is less than 20 workers, but the workers are exposed to high risk and it is considered that an OHS program is essential to the health and safety of workers.

(Note that for a grower, the obligations to provide a formal OHS program will also apply at the workplace(s) operated by the grower, depending on the level of risk in the workplace(s) and the total number of workers working in the workplace(s) for the periods of time outlined above.)

What do formal OHS programs include?
Under section 3.3 of the Regulation (Contents of program) the occupational health and safety program must be designed to prevent injuries and occupational diseases, and must include at least the following elements:

  1. A statement of the employer's aims, and of the responsibilities of the employer, supervisors, and workers.
  2. Provision for regular inspection of premises, equipment, work methods, and work practices, at appropriate intervals, to ensure that prompt action is undertaken to correct any hazardous conditions found.
  3. Appropriate written instructions, available for reference by all workers, to supplement the Regulation.
  4. Provision for the prompt investigation of incidents to determine the action necessary to prevent their recurrence.
  5. The maintenance of records and statistics, including reports of inspections and incident investigations, with provision for making this information available to the joint committee or worker health and safety representative, as applicable and, on request, to a prevention officer, the union representing the workers at the workplace or, if there is no union, the workers at the workplace.
  6. Provision by the employer for the instruction and supervision of workers in the safe performance of their work.
  7. Provision for holding periodic management meetings for the purpose of reviewing health and safety activities and incident trends, and for the determination of necessary courses of action.

An effective program will

  • Identify hazards in the workplace
  • Control the hazards and eliminate or minimize the potential for workplace injuries or illness
  • Be monitored to ensure the program meets its goals and WorkSafeBC requirements under the Act and Regulation

To achieve these objectives the program may need to include additional elements.

What are the requirements for less formal OHS programs in small operations?
These requirements are established by section 3.2 of the Regulation. Such programs must be implemented in all workplaces where formal OHS programs are not required.

The employer has the following three basic responsibilities when implementing and maintaining a less formal program:

  • Hold regular monthly meetings with workers for discussion of health and safety matters
  • Ensure meetings deal with correction of unsafe conditions and practices and the maintenance of cooperative interest in the health and safety of the workforce
  • Maintain a record of the meetings and the matters discussed. This does not mean that formal minutes have to be kept. It is sufficient that a record is kept of when meetings were held, who attended, and the general nature of what was discussed. The record should mention any specific concerns raised by persons attending, and it must be available for inspection by prevention officers

Responsibilities of growers in relation to FLCs
FLCs provide contract labour services to growers. Growers who receive their services also have responsibilities for those workers, typically as employers under section 115(1)(a)(i) & (ii) of the Act and the provisions of the Regulation.

Under section 115 of the Act the grower is responsible for the health and safety of all workers at the grower's workplace, including those of any other employer. Also, depending on the situation, growers may have responsibilities as prime contractors or owners under sections 118 and 119 of the Act respectively.

A prime contractor must

  • Ensure that the activities of employers, workers, and other persons at the workplace relating to occupational health and safety are coordinated
  • Do everything that is reasonably practicable to establish and maintain a system or process in the workplace that will ensure compliance with Part 3 of the Act and the Regulation

An owner must

  • Provide and maintain the owner's land and premises that are being used as a workplace in a manner that ensures the health and safety of persons at or near the workplace
  • Give to the employer or prime contractor at the workplace the information known to the owner that is necessary to identify and eliminate or control hazards to the health or safety of persons at the workplace
  • Comply with Part 3 of the Act, the Regulation, and any applicable orders

(Note: Under section 106 of the Act an owner includes not only a person who owns land outright, but also one who is a tenant, lessee, or occupier of the land or premises.)

Examples of the application of OHS requirements to FLCs and growers
The following examples will assist with an understanding of the application of occupational health and safety requirements to FLCs, and growers who contract for their services.

1. Worker transport vehicles: These are typically owned and operated by FLCs. As such FLCs are responsible for all aspects of safety of the vehicle including condition, maintenance, operation, and use. Requirements apply under provisions such as Part 17 (Worker transportation) of the Regulation, and those under the Motor Vehicle Act.

Growers who contract with FLCs are expected to exercise an oversight function when the vehicle arrives on site. Should they observe any faulty condition of the vehicle or unsafe operation they should draw it to the attention of the FLC to ensure it is corrected. In addition, as owners, the growers have a responsibility to make sure that the site is safe, including any roadway to be used by the worker transport vehicle operated by the FLC.

2. Personal protective equipment (PPE): Part 8 (Personal Protective Clothing and Equipment) of the Regulation provides the applicable requirements. Section 8.2 outlines the obligations of workers and employers. Generally, workers are expected to provide clothing for protection against the natural elements such as weather, and general purpose work gloves, footwear, and safety headgear if needed. However, the Regulation also recognizes that an employer may provide any or all of these items.

An employer must provide any other PPE required for the protection of workers. This might include protective gloves, clothing, or respirators if workers may be exposed to pesticides or other harmful materials, and hearing protection if workers will be working near noisy equipment. Typically, the grower controls the circumstances where workers may be at risk on the worksite and would have the expertise on appropriate PPE. In such cases, the grower would have a primary responsibility for provision of such equipment, but the FLC shares in that responsibility.

3. First aid: Under the requirements for first aid in Part 3 (Rights and Responsibilities) of the Regulation, the FLC is responsible for the provision of first aid for farm workers in their employ. First aid equipment must be provided on worker transport vehicles as required by section 17.10 (Vehicle design), as well as appropriate fire extinguishers. Typically the equipment required will be a Level 1 first aid kit, except where a very small number of workers are transported, in which case a basic kit may be sufficient.

Once workers have been transported to a worksite, the hazard assessment is likely to change, as many agricultural worksites are at least moderate risk. First aid for the FLC's workers would have to be adjusted accordingly. In addition, if the grower employs workers other than those provided by the FLC, then the first aid for the site needs to take account of the total number of workers on site.

As previously mentioned, the grower typically has employer responsibilities on site for workers provided by the farm labour contractor. If in a particular situation the grower is a prime contractor (refer to section 118 of the Act), then section 3.20 of the Regulation requires the grower to do everything that is reasonably practicable to establish and maintain the necessary first aid capability on the site. Unless there is an unusual circumstance, such as a short term situation in which the FLC provides more workers than was originally requested, it will be considered practicable for the grower to provide first aid that covers all workers on site.

4. Protection from hazardous materials: Typically workers employed by FLCs carry out activities such as pruning, thinning, and harvesting. In most cases, if there are hazardous materials present in a workplace, then they are likely to be under the control of the grower.

Under their responsibilities as both owners and employers, growers are required to maintain a safe site, and ensure that FLCs are given the information needed to ensure the safety of the FLC's workers.

Information requirements on hazardous materials are covered primarily in Part 5 (Chemical Agents and Biological Agents) of the Regulation. Most substances to which a worker might be exposed in an agricultural operation (such as many pesticides, corrosive cleaning agents, and fertilizers) are covered by the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS), which is addressed in sections 5.3 to 5.19. For hazardous substances not covered by WHMIS, such as decomposition gases from silos and manure pits, section 5.2 will apply. Other provisions in Part 5 cover issues such as storage, exposure limits, ventilation, and hazardous wastes.

Part 6 (Substance Specific Requirements) of the Regulation covers requirements for specific groups of substances; for example, pesticides. Among other things, the employer must ensure that pesticides are stored and used safely, are applied by a qualified person, that restricted entry intervals are established after application of a pesticide and appropriate warning signs are posted, and that proper hygiene facilities are provided. In most cases these measures will be the responsibility of the grower.

Restricted entry intervals prohibit entry by a worker into an area in which pesticides are applied unless a worker is properly protected before he/she enters the area. Workers must be protected both before and after the expiry of the entry intervals. The party that controls the use of pesticides on site, typically the grower, has responsibilities to protect workers under these provisions. In addition they have the responsibility to communicate to the FLC all information needed to ensure the safety of the FLC's workers. Depending on the arrangements made between the grower and the FLC, one or both of the parties will be responsible for providing necessary information to workers, and any necessary personal protective equipment that is not the responsibility of the worker under section 8.2 of the Regulation.

5. Training: Under section 115(2) of the Act, an employer has the responsibility to ensure workers are made aware of all known or reasonably foreseeable hazards, as well as their rights and duties under the Act and Regulation, and are provided with the information, instruction, training, and supervision to ensure their health and safety. A number of specific training requirements are covered in the Regulation. Three examples are provided below.

5.1 Orientation: Effective July 26, 2007 under sections 3.22 to 3.25 of the Regulation all young and new workers must receive orientation and training specific to the workplace. New workers include workers who are relocated to a new workplace if the hazards in that workplace are different from the hazards in their previous workplace. These provisions will have substantial application to FLCs in the agriculture sector given that their workers are often assigned to new workplaces. Again, responsibilities may be shared between the grower and FLC on how the various specified training and orientation elements are addressed. It may, for example, be reasonable to expect that the FLC take the lead on providing generic instruction on topics that are not site-specific, with the grower taking responsibility for site specific topics. Records must be kept of the orientation and training provided.

5.2 WHMIS: For hazardous substances covered by WHMIS, the worker must receive the education and training required by sections 5.6 and 5.7 of the Regulation. Section 5.6 deals with general (generic) requirements to ensure workers know among other things the elements of the WHMIS program, and the content required on labels and material safety data sheets (MSDS). Section 5.7 addresses site-specific requirements for training in the safe procedures for controlled products in the workplace.

Again, the FLC and grower may, depending on the arrangements between them, share in the responsibilities for both generic instruction and site-specific training. It may be a typical scenario for the FLC to ensure generic instruction is given, and the grower to cover site-specific training. In the final analysis, the worker must be able to answer the following four questions:

  • What are the hazards of the materials to which I may be exposed?
  • How am I protected from those hazards?
  • What do I do in the event of an emergency?
  • Where do I get more detailed information?

5.3 Forklifts and other on-site equipment: Typically any such equipment is under the control of the grower. Therefore, it will be the grower who has the basic responsibility to ensure workers are trained in the use of the equipment should they be required to operate it, and in the safe procedures to follow for workers who are working in the vicinity of the equipment. The FLC has a responsibility to ensure that adequate training has been provided.

5.4 FLC vehicles: The FLC is responsible for instruction of workers in the use of FLC vehicles used for transporting farm workers to and from the grower's operation. This would include, for example, instruction for the operator in the requirements of the pre-shift vehicle inspection, and for the operator and workers being transported, instruction in the proper procedures to follow in the vehicle, such as the procedures for the transport of materials and tools, and the use of seat belts.

G3.2 "Less formal" occupational health and safety (OHS) programs

Issued October 26, 2005; Revised May 17, 2006; Editorial Revision February 1, 2008

Regulatory excerpt
Section 3.1 of the OHS Regulation ("Regulation") states:

3.1 (1) An occupational health and safety program as outlined in section 3.3 must be initiated and maintained

(a) by each employer that has

(i) a workforce of 20 or more workers, and

(ii) at least one workplace that is determined under section 3.16 (2) (b) to create a moderate or high risk of injury, or

(b) by each employer that has a workforce of 50 or more workers.

(1.1) If subsection (1) (a) or (b) applies to the employer, the occupational health and safety program applies to the whole of the employer's operations.

(2) Despite subsection (1) an occupational health and safety program may be required in any workplace when, in the opinion of an officer, such a program is necessary.

Section 3.2 of the Regulation states:

In any operation where the workforce is less than that referred to in section 3.1(1) the employer must

(a) initiate and maintain a less formal program based on regular monthly meetings with workers for discussion of health and safety matters,

(b) ensure that meetings are directed to matters concerning the correction of unsafe conditions and practices and the maintenance of cooperative interest in the health and safety of the workforce, and

(c) maintain a record of the meetings and the matters discussed.

Purpose of guideline
The purpose of this guideline is to highlight situations where employers are required to implement a "less formal program" under section 3.2, rather than an OHS program under section 3.1, but are still required to implement joint committees under the Workers Compensation Act ("Act"). The guideline also discusses requirements for less formal programs under section 3.2.

OHS programs, less formal programs, and joint committees
Under section 3.2 of the Regulation, less formal programs are required in any operation where the workforce is less than that referred to in section 3.1(1). Note that even where an OHS program under sections 3.1 and 3.3 is not required, an employer may be required to establish and maintain a joint committee under section 125 of the Act.

For example, consider the following situation:

Number of workers 30
Risk level Low
OHS Program required under section 3.1(1)? No
Joint Committee required under section 125(a) of the Act? Yes

In this situation, the employer must meet the requirements of section 3.2 of the Regulation and the requirements in the Act for joint committees.

Requirement for less formal programs
Section 3.2(a) requires that the employer or a person delegated by the employer calls, at least once a month, a meeting of workers present at that time. The employer's obligation under section 3.2(c) to maintain a "record of the meetings" does not mean that formal minutes have to be kept. It is sufficient that a record is kept of when meetings were held, who attended and the general nature of what was discussed. The record should mention any specific concerns raised by persons attending. The record must be available for inspection by prevention officers.

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Disclaimer: The Worker and Employer Services Division issues Guidelines to help with the application and interpretation of sections of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation and with divisions of the Workers Compensation Act that relate to health and safety. Guidelines are not intended to provide exclusive interpretations but to assist with compliance. The Workers' Compensation Board of B.C. ("WorkSafeBC") does not warrant the accuracy or the completeness of the online version of the Guidelines and neither WorkSafeBC nor its board of directors, employees or agents shall be liable to any persons for any loss or damage of any nature, whether arising out of negligence or otherwise, which may be occasioned as a result of the use of the online version of the Guidelines.