Migrant Farm Worker Program

OHCOW’s ability and track record as a frontline occupational health organization provides for wide ranging contact with precarious and vulnerable workers. We have extensive experience assisting individuals directly at community based clinics, as part of a small group during workshops and providing materials and tips in Fair settings.

In addition, OHCOW’s unique and longstanding role in many communitysocial action partnerships makes us a trusted resource for vulnerable workers and for those who support them. A primary program in recent years has been targeting assistance to migrant farm workers, and the networks created are now leading us into expanding and diversifying to provide immigration and refugee worker support. An initial foray in this area was participating in the planning and delivery (including offering an OHCOW clinic) at the Guelph Newcomer Health Fair and we look forward to more endeavours in this area. 

Early 2015 brought enhanced outreach to the employers of vulnerable workers, particularly farmers, by participating in several conferences and tradeshows, developing and providing materials and information targeted to their needs, creating free Resource Tool Boxes to support their health and safety management efforts, and updating the OHCOW website for clarity and accessibility. Agricultural workers are exposed to a variety of occupational hazards including intense physical labour, repetitive motion, long working hours, pesticides and fertilizers, heat, sun, dusts, mechanized equipment and falls from platforms and farm vehicles. After running a series of seasonal projects since 2006, the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers now has permanent funding for a program specifically focused on supporting Ontario’s migrant farm workers and their employers. 

As part of OHCOW’s MFW program, we provide interdisciplinary clinical services to this vulnerable worker population along with distribution of information tools and resources, delivery of educational sessions, and engagement and collaboration with employers, aswell as community partners. 

OHCOW's Migrant Farm Worker Program offers :

Migrant Farm Worker Clinics: Consultations with a nurse or doctor for workers who may have work-related health concerns. Occupational Health and Safety Workshops: Focused on common hazards related to agricultural work; Provided on farms or in the community. Occupational Health and Safety Information and the Resource Tool Box: For workers, employers, community support organizations and health clinics; in multiple languages; and in formats that address literacy barriers. Workplace consultations: To collaboratively identify hazards and develop specific strategies to modify and improve work environment and practices. Community Partnerships: Collaborating with Community Health Centres, health service organizations, and local immigration support committees, improving access to broader health services and social supports

Every year, thousands of migrant farm workers come to Canada to work in the agriculture industry, including 20,000 arriving in Ontario to work on farms and in greenhouses. These workers play a vital role in the industry, and therefore, in Ontario’s economy. The Provincial Expert Advisory Panel on Occupational Health and Safety, and subsequently, the Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL), have identified this labour force as a group who face barriers in accessing effective occupational health and safety resources and support.  As migrant farm workers spend the majority of their time at work, and farm work can be physically demanding, involving a variety of hazards, an occupational health and safety focus is particularly important for supporting the health of this population.The Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) has developed a program specifically focused on supporting Ontario migrant farm workers and their employers. 

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