Print This Page

Temporary Help Agencies and Client Businesses:
Know your employer duties under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations

  • Issued: June 8, 2012
  • Content last reviewed: June 2012

Disclaimer: This resource has been prepared to help the workplace parties understand some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and regulations. It is not legal advice. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations. For further information please see full disclaimer.

Protect worker health and safety…it’s the law

Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and regulations set out duties for all workplace parties for protecting workers’ health and safety. Temporary help agencies and their client businesses should ensure that they understand their employer duties under the law.

Who has employer duties under the OHSA for temporary help workers?

Where a worker is employed by a temporary help agency to perform temporary work assignments for agency clients (i.e., the client employer) in the client’s workplace, the agency employer and the client employer are jointly responsible (as employers) for taking every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect the health and safety of the worker. The client employer normally has the day-to-day control over the work and working conditions of the workplace to which the workers are assigned. However, an agency employer is not relieved of its legal duties under the OHSA for the worker’s health and safety during an assignment. Employer duties in the OHSA apply to both the client employer and the temporary agency employer.

Agency and client employers: your duties under the law

Section 25 of the OHSA sets out some of your general and specific duties as an employer.

Employers’ obligations under the law include the duty to:

  • Know the hazards in the workplace and acquaint a worker or a person in authority over a worker with any hazard in the work.
  • Make sure your supervisors are “competent persons” as defined by OHSA when you appoint them.
  • Develop and implement a health and safety policy and program.
  • Provide ongoing information, instruction and supervision to protect worker health and safety.
  • Ensure that equipment, materials and protective devices are provided as required by law, maintained in good condition, and are always used as required by law.
  • Assist, respond to, and cooperate with health and safety committees or representatives as required by law.
  • Take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect all workers, including temporary help agency workers on assignment.

In addition to the above duties, before placing the worker on a temporary work assignment with a client, the agency employer must ensure that the worker:

  • is qualified to do the work on an assignment for a client employer.
  • will be provided with information, instruction and supervision to protect their health and safety at the workplace to which they are being assigned.

Report workplace health and safety incidents, critical injuries or fatalities

Call 1-877-202-0008 any time to report critical injuries, fatalities or work refusals. Call 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Monday-Friday for general inquiries about workplace health and safety. Always call 911 in an emergency.

Employer reprisals against workers are prohibited by law

Section 50 of the OHSA prohibits employer reprisals. It is against the law for employers to threaten, intimidate, discipline, or dismiss workers for following the OHSA and regulations, exercising rights under the OHSA, and asking the employer to follow the OHSA.

A worker who believes that the employer has taken reprisal against him or her for exercising his or her rights and responsibilities under the OHSA may file a complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB). If there is an allegation of reprisal before the OLRB, it’s up to the employer to refute it. The Office of the Employer Adviser can provide free assistance and representation at mediations and hearings before the OLRB to employers with fewer than 50 employees. Also, employers can contact the Law Society of Upper Canada, which will put them in touch with a lawyer who may provide a free initial consultation.

The OLRB may remove or change any penalty the employer may have imposed. For more information, visit the OLRB web site or call toll-free: 1-877-339-3335 (8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday to Friday).

Workers’ compensation

For information about requirements for workplace insurance coverage and reporting injuries and illnesses to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), please contact the WSIB toll-free at 1-800-387-0750 (7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday), or visit the WSIB web site.

Disclaimer: This web resource has been prepared to assist the workplace parties in understanding some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and the regulations. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations and reference should always be made to the official version of the legislation.

It is the responsibility of the workplace parties to ensure compliance with the legislation. This web resource does not constitute legal advice. If you require assistance with respect to the interpretation of the legislation and its potential application in specific circumstances, please contact your legal counsel.

While this web resource will also be available to Ministry of Labour inspectors, they will apply and enforce the OHSA and its regulations based on the facts as they may find them in the workplace. This web resource does not affect their enforcement discretion in any way.