Temporary Foreign
Agricultural Worker
Program (TFAW)

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Every year thousands of temporary foreign agricultural 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.

Since 2006 we have offered our services to migrant farm workers, their employers and community partners with the aim to continue to become valued partners in agricultural and horticultural occupational health and safety.

Every season we connect and work with more and more Ontario growers

We have worked with farms in:
Durham    •    Haldimand-Norfolk    •   Niagara Regions    •   Brant County    •   Lambton County.

We support them in addressing the challenges of working with a diverse workforce and ensuring occupational health and safety guidelines and programs are understood and effective in the form of:

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WORKSHOPS

We have delivered workshops occupational health and safety workshops to 1000+ migrant farm workers

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RESOURCES

We continue to identify, develop and distribute health and safety information, resources and materials in literacy and language appropriate formats.

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STRATEGIES and BEST PRACTICES

We continue to support farms with strategies and best practices to ensure their health and safety programs are effectively understood by, and reflect the needs of, the diverse labour force in agriculture and horticulture.

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CONSULTATION SERVICES

We continue to provide both workplace and clinical consultations to assist both the workers and their employers. Learn more about these consultations below.

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TRANSLATON
SERVICES

We can also provide translation services to help you communicate more effectively with your workers. Learn more about our translation service below.

THE NUMBERS

58,000
The number of people that came to Canada to work through the two key programs*

52%
of the temporary foreign agricultural workers were from Mexico

92+%
The percentage of agricultural jobs filled by temporary foreign workers in Canada

78%
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* from the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program and the Temporary Foreign Worker Program’s agricultural stream

AWARENESS and BASICS

The IRS and OHS worker rights and responsibilities (Eduardo?)

Hazards and Prevention

Not sure what else you want in this section…?

CONFIDENCE, CULTURE and COMMUNICATIONS

When working with migrant farm workers, it is important to promote worker confidence and build a positive health and safety culture through communications

The following factsheets draw from our experience as well as from research conducted by other health and safety organizations working with migrant workers:

Since 2006, OHCOW has provided occupational health support to more than a thousand migrant farm workers and their employers in Ontario through clinical consultations for individuals with occupational health concerns, and prevention-based occupational health and safety materials, tools and workshops. All our services are free of charge. This factsheet draws from our experience as well as from research conducted by other health and safety organizations working with migrant workers

Culture Makes a Difference

Making workplaces safe and healthy involves the collaboration of all workplace parties which is why an ‘internal responsibility system’ is the core framework of Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act. For this to be effective, it is important that workers feel as though they can ask questions, raise concerns, understand issues and be involved in developing health and safety solutions.

Some migrant farm workers voice feeling intimidated to ask questions about work practices or to identify health and safety concerns. Several reasons are described: they will get in trouble, be seen as a nuisance, or perceived as incapable of performing the work tasks if they ask questions. Migrant workers particularly fear being “sent home” if they raise concerns. It is important to recognize and address these fears in order to achieve an open, collaborative, healthy, safe and productive work place culture.

Promote worker confidence in engaging with health and safety:

  • Communicate frequently and openly, encouraging conversation, questions and feedback
  • Emphasize the importance of asking questions for clarification. Ask workers to demonstrate or re-iterate for confirmation.
  • Listen. Consistently give workers a chance to speak and/or ask for feedback (e.g. “what do you think?”) to encourage contribution, participation and also increased engagement.
  • Explain that responding to concerns raised by workers helps improve conditions for all workplace parties, and are not part of blaming or firing people.
  • Encourage workers who are less confident communicating in English to refer concerns through a co-worker who can help them with communication.
  • Where possible provide basic health and safety materials and/or training in the workers’ language or with the assistance of a competent translator or translating device

Build a positive health and safety culture:

  • Highlight the internal responsibility system and the role of all parties in collaborating for health and safety in the workplace
  • Demonstrate a strong commitment to safety through postings, orientation, training and the provision of hazard information, and ensuring equipment is in good repair
  • Pace work so that workers do not feel the need to compromise safety to meet production demands
  • Emphasize the importance of reporting hazards, near misses and especially accidents for proper follow-up and future prevention
  • Recognize that workers may come with pre-conceived ideas that may complicate their understanding of safety instructions or practices, and solicit teachable moments to address those eg. Fear of the “shock” of cold water on hot days, and the hazardous use of mineral salts like “suero” as hydration aids.
  • Promote health by providing access to hand washing and laundry facilities.

Celebrate success stories where worker ideas have made a difference to health, safety, productivity and/or quality

eg. From a local farm:

  • Workers told farmer that round single-person carrying baskets are awkward to carry, and are causing strains to their backs.
  • Employer researched better carrying boxes and eventually purchased (cheaper!) plastic crates that can be carried by two people to share the weight
  • Employer notes that since the change workers have been more productive, and have not experienced the same back discomfort.

References:

  • HSE Human Factors Briefing Note No. 8 Safety-Critical Communications- Health and Safety Executive.
  • Leadership and worker involvement toolkit: Effective communication and gaining co-operation-Health and Safety Executive
  • Common Topics 3: Safety Critical Communications-Health and Safety Executive
  • Protecting migrant workers-Health and Safety Executive

View PDF button

 

Since 2006, OHCOW has provided occupational health support to more than a thousand migrant farm workers and their employers in Ontario through clinical consultations for individuals with occupational health concerns, and prevention- based occupational health and safety materials, tools and workshops. All our services are free of charge. This factsheet draws from our experience as well as from research conducted by other health and safety organizations working with migrant workers.

Communication

Communication is the key to a healthy, safe and productive workplace. It is needed to ensure roles and directions are understood; to warn against dangers; to avoid unsafe practices; to promote critical emergency response and particularly to learn about (and from!) the concerns and hazards that workers encounter.

“I did not understand the directions they gave, I just tried to watch how my co- worker was doing the work, but I still felt unsure for quite some time”

Migrant farm workers often have limited speaking and comprehension skills in English and may also be reluctant (in their anxiety to work) to let on when they don’t understand. Literacy can also be an issue. Not addressing these factors in workplace communication and training can put everyone in the workplace at risk.

Therefore where possible:

  • Provide instructions, materials and training in the language of the workers (OHCOW can help find or verify). E.g. http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/pubs/poster_prevention.php
  • Use materials and training with clear images or symbols
  • Repeat key information in different ways: written, verbal, and visual formats
  • Participation and engagement are critical: Consistently ask for feedback or ideas from workers regarding information being presented (e.g. “what do you think?”)
  • Identify workers who may be more proficient in English, and support them to be communication aides for others.
  • Encourage workers to ask for repetition or clarification when they do not understand.
  • Use a ‘buddy’ system, pairing less and more experienced workers who speak the same language.
  • Include comprehension testing activities as part of training to measure understanding.
  • Train supervisors on how to communicate clearly, to be patient, to check understanding and to encourage feedback
  • Pace work so that there is adequate time to communicate effectively
  • Ensure important communications are not muffled by workplace noise
  • Look for an opportunity to provide ‘workplace English’ lessons or resources to interested workers

Workers Need to Know:

  • OHS Rights and Responsibilities, and what that means to them
  • Farm/Business Safety Roles, Policy and Procedures and what they mean in practice
  • How to get help in an Emergency (see below)
  • Hazards and Risks they face in their jobs; Why and how they are to be controlled
  • Safe working practices they should follow; how well they are doing so; and consequences if they don’t
  • Healthy hygiene practices when working with soil, chemicals or biohazards
  • Where they can get more safety information (ideally posted where they congregate)
  • The importance of communicating about safety: to each other, to their supervisor, to management, and to visitors or outside contractors who face the same hazards
  • The importance of reporting injuries and illness in order to ensure treatment and prevention

Emergency Planning:

Emergency planning and communication is key to ensure an effective response when every minute counts.

  • Advise workers whom to call first and provide the means to do so (eg. Radio or cell phone). Ideally every location should have a designated first aid responder.
  • Train workers with some English proficiency to call 911 if the supervisor or responder can’t be reached or the situation is serious.
  • Provide workers with cards that clearly state the address of the farm and specific directions to the work location (eg. Field) if different.
  • Train workers in identifying and responding to heat stroke, eg. cooling the victim with water and moving them closer to the road for faster access.
  • Practice with mock drills, giving everyone a chance to play a role

References:

  • HSE Human Factors Briefing Note No. 8 Safety-Critical Communications- Health and Safety Executive.
  • Leadership and worker involvement toolkit: Effective communication and gaining co-operation-Health and Safety Executive
  • Common Topics 3: Safety Critical Communications-Health and Safety Executive
  • Protecting migrant workers-Health and Safety Executive
  • Communication a tool for better safety, compliance and understanding of migrant workers-Margarita Caropresi, Director and Chief editor Atoctli.

    View PDF button

 

EVENTS

OHCOW hosts, and partners with other organizations, to bring special events to the migrant farm worker community.

Current / upcoming events include:

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Previous events include:

Migrant Farm Worker Forums    •    Work, Migration and Health Forum
International Foreign Agricultural Workers Workshop
plus many others

Visit our MFW Event Resources page to learn more about and view resources from these events.

RESOURCES

Through our years of work with migrant farm workers, we have identified numerous educational materials that are effective in communicating occupational health and safety (OHS) information to migrant farm workers.
These resources include those developed by NIOSH, CAL OSHA, the US National Center for Farmworker Health (NCFH), among others.

View resource collections for specific groups using the following tabs:

WORKERS’ RESOURCES

Mixing and Matching COVID-19 Vaccines

Thumbnail of the "Mixing and Matching COVID-19 Vaccines" poster

English   |   Spanish

COVID-19 Safety After Vaccination

Thumbnail of the "COVID-19 Safety After Vaccination" poster

English   |   Spanish

Protect Against COVID-19

Thumbnail of the "Protect Against COVID-19" poster

English

What Causes Our Symptoms?
HAZARDS

Thumbnail of the Symptoms and Hazards flyer

English  |   Spanish  |   Thai

Health and Safety
Prevention and Controls

Thumbnail of the Health and Safety Prevention and Controls flyer

English   |   Spanish   |   Thai

Where Does it Hurt?

Thumbnail of the Where Does It Hurt? poster

English  |   Spanish  |   Thai

Protect the Hands that Feed Us

Thumbnail of the Migrant Worker Health Project website

migrantworker.ca

Source:  Migrant Worker Health Expert Working Group (MWHEWG)

What to Expect When Calling 911 for a Health Emergency

Snapshot of the "What to expect when calling 911 for a health emergency" factsheet

English  |  French  |   Spanish  |  Thai  | Arabic  |  Chinese   |   Tagalog   | Vietnamese

Calling 911 When You Need Emergency Health Care

Snapshot of th"Calling 911 when you need emergency healthcare" factsheet

English  |  French  |  Spanish  |  Thai  | Arabic  |   Chinese   |   Tagalog   | Vietnamese

Pesticide Equipment

Snapshot of the Pesticide Equipment poster

English   |  Spanish

Pesticide Drift

Snapshot of the Pesticide Drift poster

English   |   Spanish

Pesticide First Aid

Snapshot of the Pesticide First Aid poster

English  |  Spanish

Pesticide First Aid
(Enclosed Spaces)

Snapshot of the Pesticide First Aid poster

English  |  Spanish

Pesticide Spills

Snapshot of the Pesticide Spills poster

English  |  Spanish

Pesticide Containers

Snapshot of the Pesticide Containers poster

English  |  Spanish

Work Clothing

Snapshot of the Work Clothing poster

English  |  Spanish

Breaks / After Work

Snapshot of the Breaks and After Work poster

English  |  Spanish

Take Care of Your Eyes

Snapshot of the Eye Health poster

English   |   Espanol

First Aid for Eye Injuries

Snapshot of a poster entitled "First Aid for Eye Injuries"

English  |   Spanish

Health Effects of Heat

Snapshot of the Health Effects of Heat poster

Source:  CAL/OSHA

English  |  Espanol

Water. Rest. Shade
A Heat Safety Fact Sheet

Snapshot of the Water, Rest, Shade factsheet

English  |  Spanish

Giant Hogweed

Thumbnail of the "Giant Hogweed" flyer

English  |  Espanol

Poison Ivy

Thumbnail of the "Poison Ivy Safety" flyer

English  |   Espanol

Stinging Nettle Safety

Thumbnail of the "Stinging Nettle Safety" flyer

English

Ticks and Lyme Disease

Thumbnail of the Ticks and Lyme Disease flyer

English  |  Espanol

West Nile Virus Safety

Thumbnail of the West Nile virus Safety flyer

English / Spanish

Injury Prevention

Snapshot of a comic strip entitled "Injury Prevention"

English   |   Espanol

Simple Solutions:  Ergonomics for Farm Workers

Snapshot of the cover of the Simple Solutions: Ergonomics for Farm Workers brohure

English

Mental Health Information for Farm Workers

Snapshot of the cover of the Mental Health Information for Farm Workers brochure

English  |  Spanish

The following wallet-size reference cards contain helpful information for workers who need to exercise their rights for a healthy and safe work environment:

Workers’ Basic Health and Safety Rights

Snapshot of the cover of the workers' basic rights wallet card

English   |   Espanol   |   Thai

Refusing Dangerous Work

A snapshot of the cover of the refusing dangerous work wallet card

English   |   Espanol   |   Thai

Workers’ Rights Against Retaliation

Snapshot of the cover of the Employers and Supervisors Must Protect Your Health and Safety wallet card

English   |   Espanol   |   Thai

Hurt or sick because of your job?
Have COVID-19?

Snapshot of the cover of the "Hurt or sick because of your job? Have COVID-19" wallet card

English   |   Espanol   |   Thai

EMPLOYER RESOURCES

Heightened COVID-19 Risks to Temporary Foreign (Migrant) Agricultural Workers (TFAWs) and Recommended Actions in the 2020 Agricultural Season Occupational Medicine

A Perspective Paper
by Donald C Cole MD, DOHS, MSc, FRCP(C), Occupational, Environmental and Public Health Medicine Consultant

English

Recommendations for Overcoming Health Challenges Faced By Migrant Agricultural Workers during the COVID-19-Virus Pandemic

Report to ESDC (last update June 9, 2020)

English

Health and Safety Guides and Toolkits

Thumbnail of a sample flyer from the WSPS collection

(many are related to agricultural work)
Source:  Workplace Safety & Prevention Services

English

Improving Confidence and Building Culture

Thumbnail of the "Improving Confidence and Building Culture" factsheet

English

Effectively Communicating Health and Safety

Thumbnail of the "Effectively Communicating Health and Safety" flyer

English

CASE STUDIES

The following case studies are provided …

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OUR TEAM

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TESTIMONIALS

The following testimonials speak to the quality and value of this highly regarded program.

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WORKER

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CLINICIAN

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ADVOCATE

CONSULTATION SERVICES

We offer both Workplace and Clinic Consultations as part of our Migrant Farm Workers Program.
Learn more about each service in the blocks below.
Register for a free consultation using the contact form or phone number below.

Workplace Consultations

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Clinical Consultations
For individuals with occupational health concerns

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Translation Assistance

If you need help translating your existing occupational health and safety program material into a second language,
please contact us using the contact form or phone number below.

RELATED VIDEOS

We have a large library of videos related to Migrant Farm Workers.
Most of these videos are generated from speaker sessions at our various events/forums.
To view these videos by event, view our MFW Events page.

CONTACT US

Use the following form to contact the OHCOW Migrant Farm Workers Program:

You can also call us about the Migrant Farm Workers Program if you prefer:

1-877-817-0336