Health and Safety ReportVolume 19, Issue 2

On Topic

Temporary Foreign Workers. Full Worker Rights. print this article

It’s barely morning, and Martin and his crew are already gearing up for the long day ahead. As temporary foreign workers, they are employed for the spring and summer seasons on a small but busy local farm.

Days are tiring, especially during the warmer months when the sun is beating down on the backs of the crew, and additional water breaks are needed. Some days are especially grueling, like the days when Martin’s boss adds on a few hours of work with the assurance of extra pay in a few weeks.

“Should we talk to the boss about what day to expect our pay?” asks Martin, as he hops into the truck and prepares to call it a night. “Not today,” replies crew member, Lucas. “Half the team is off sick, and I don’t want to add anymore stress. Let’s not worry; the boss always has us covered.”  Martin gives an understanding nod, and the crew drives off to get some rest.

Martin and Lucas are not worried because they have an employer who is respectful of their workers. But this situation is not always the case.  Many temporary foreign workers may not get paid or feel like they’re unable to take a sick day. Some may worry about not having access to or funds for basic necessities, and others may fear that their work permit may be in jeopardy. While working in Canada, these fears should never be the case.

Temporary foreign workers play an important role in the Canadian market, but their rights as workers may not always be communicated or understood by the employer or the worker. Nonetheless, it is a fact that every temporary foreign worker is protected by Canada’s labour laws.

The law states that employers:

  • Must pay workers for their work
  • Must make sure the workplace is safe
  • Cannot take passports or work permits away from workers

It also states that all workers, including temporary foreign workers, have the:

  • Right to know: This right means that it’s the law for every employer, including Martin and Lucas’ employer, to communicate to their staff the hazards of the workplace while doing everything in their power to reduce risks. These hazards may include the hazards that are due to everyday work conditions like exposure to the sun, and the potential for dehydration, or hazards due to equipment and repetitive motions. It can also include information on COVID-19 prevention, such as encouraging employees to wear masks, working at only one job location, keeping on-site and off-site workers separate to reduce exposure risk and community spread, and creating cohorts of workers, like a crew bubble, if possible.

    TIP: Employers should communicate using language that is suitable for the workers’ age, ability, reading level, and language preferences. Using icons and imagery is also a helpful tip when communicating with workers.

  • Right to participate: Each worker also has the right to participate in discussions around health and safety, which includes communicating any concerns they may have. This right means that Martin and Lucas, or any other team member, can discuss issues like taking time off if sick, and if they feel the workplace needs extra drinking water on site.

  • Right to refuse unsafe work: This right means that the crew is within their legal rights to report unsafe working conditions to their supervisor, and that the supervisor must respond to the concerns. Depending on the province or territory, next steps may vary, but as long as the worker is in Canada, they do not have to worry about the risk of losing their job, working permit or passport. It is every worker’s right to be safe at work, and an employer cannot force you to perform duties may endanger yourself or others.

    FACT: When it comes to health and safety and COVID-19, every worker has the right to isolate themselves, and therefore not work, if they become symptomatic at any time. If this situation happens and the worker lives in on-site housing, the employer must immediately arrange for the worker to be fully isolated from others. The employer should contact local public health officials for further advice.

These laws are applicable in every industry, including agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting, where temporary foreign workers account for 15.5% of the employment, and job types like caregiving and housekeeping where private households can employ workers.  It is important for every employer to understand their responsibilities, and for every temporary foreign worker to know that while employed in Canada, their rights are always protected.



Tips and Tools

Read Up on Hearing Protectionprint this article

Prolonged exposure to noise can lead to hearing damage and loss. Working in noisy environments can take its toll and over time the damage can become more severe and irreversible. When the source of noise at work cannot be reduced or eliminated through engineering methods, we can help prevent noise-induced hearing loss by using comfortable, effective hearing protectors.

Hearing protectors reduce the noise exposure level and the risk of hearing loss when worn correctly. Their effectiveness is reduced greatly if the hearing protectors do not fit properly, are not inserted or worn correctly, if they are worn only periodically, or if they are removed even for a short period of time.

Select hearing protection that is:

  • Correct for the job. Refer to the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Standard Z94.2-14 (R2019) “Hearing Protection Devices - Performance, Selection, Care and Use” or contact the agency responsible for occupational health and safety legislation in your jurisdiction for more information.
  • Capable of providing adequate protection or noise attenuation. Check the manufacturer's literature.
  • Compatible with other required personal protective equipment, or communication devices.
  • Comfortable enough to be worn for the entire length of exposure.
  • Appropriate for the temperature and humidity in the workplace.
  • Able to provide adequate communication and audibility needs (e.g., the wearer has the ability to hear alarms or warning sounds).

Where hearing protectors must be used, it’s best to provide different types to choose from that will be appropriate for the noise levels. These can be earplugs, semi-insert plugs, earmuffs, or a combination of muffs and plugs. If the noise exposure is intermittent, earmuffs are more desirable since it may be inconvenient to remove and reinsert earplugs. Choosing the type of hearing protection is also a personal choice and depends on several factors including level of noise, comfort, and the suitability of the hearing protector for both the worker and the environment. Comfort is crucial; if workers don’t like the type of protection (for example, if it is uncomfortable, doesn’t fit well, or is impractical), they won’t wear it.

It’s important to note that if hearing protection is required, a complete hearing conservation program should be implemented. A hearing conservation program includes noise assessment, methods for controlling noise, hearing protector selection, employee training and education, audiometric testing, maintenance, inspection, record keeping, and program evaluation.


CCOHS Resources:


Podcasts: Understanding Canada's New Federal Harassment and Violence Legislationprint this article

This month’s new podcast features a conversation on Canada’s new workplace harassment and violence legislation for federally regulated workplaces. Also, March 15-21 is Global Brain Awareness week. Help raise awareness and listen to Understanding Workplace Concussions.

Feature Podcast: Understanding Canada’s New Federal Harassment and Violence Legislation

Join Kathaleen Nicholson, Senior Policy Analyst, and Ana-Maria Iliescu-Stieghelbauer, Policy Officer, from Employment and Social Development Canada; and Amy Campbell, CCOHS Health and Safety Program Manager,  as they unpack some of the major components of the legislation including supports for workers and tips for employers as they take action to protect their employees.

The podcast runs 22:03 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.



Encore Podcast: Understanding Workplace Concussions

Concussions can occur anywhere, including in the workplace. Statistics reveal that there has been an increase in the number of time loss claims for work-related concussions. This podcast provides tips and information to help understand concussions and how to manage them in the workplace.

The podcast runs 6:00 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.


CCOHS produces free monthly podcasts on a wide variety of topics designed to keep you current with information, tips, and insights into the health, safety, and well-being of working Canadians. You can download the audio segment to your computer or MP3 player and listen to it at your own convenience... or on the go!

See the complete list of podcast topics. Better yet, subscribe to the series on iTunes and don't miss a single episode. Listen on Spotify.

New COVID-19 Resources

New COVID-19 Tip Sheets and Resources print this article

As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, CCOHS continues to release new and updated resources to help workplaces prevent the spread.  Get guidance on cleaning and disinfecting, fact checking COVID information, and using face shields in the workplace. As with all our COVID resources, these fact sheets are free, downloadable, and easy to share.

New guidance is available on:

More Free Resources



Keeping Up with New Legislationprint this article

Occupational health and safety laws are always evolving. This month, we highlight amendments to Nunavut Occupational Health and Safety Regulations and to the Occupational Health and Safety Act in Ontario, relating to training.


Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (Safety Act): R-033-2020 makes extensive amendments to the French version, a few minor changes to the English and replaces schedules K, L, N, P, T, U, V and Y and amends schedule S in both versions.


Occupational Health and Safety Awareness and Training (Occupational Health and Safety Act): O. Reg. 751/20 came into force 01/01/21 and makes amendments to recognize alternate fall protection training in addition to Ontario’s Working at Heights training.  Sections 7 and 8 are replaced, allowing for the recognition of Fall Protection training approved by Workplace NL as an acceptable alternative to Ontario’s training, and expanding an existing exemption from Working at Heights training requirements for automobile manufacturers and assemblers that directly employ workers at construction projects located at automobile manufacturing or assembly plants operated by that employer.  Amendments are also made in Sections 9 and 10, and Section 11 Transition is repealed.


For more information regarding recent regulatory changes CCOHS offers a paid subscription service, Canadian enviroOSH Legislation plus Standards, that provides a collection of all the health, safety and environmental legislation you need in one location.

Last Word..

Review a Course, Get a Course for Freeprint this article

CCOHS’ online courses are unique in that they are developed by subject specialists in the field and are reviewed by representatives from organized labour, employers, and government. This tripartite system is used to ensure that the content and approach are unbiased and credible.

Are you interested in becoming a reviewer for a CCOHS e-course?

As a thank you for your time, we’ll give you a free course (value of at least $69.00) for each course you review.  Sign up to be one of our reviewers by e-mailing Please include your full contact information and whether you will be representing labour, an employer and/or government with your review.

About the e-course review process

You should expect to spend about two hours reviewing a typical course (approximately one hour’s worth of course content). You will be provided with the course link and a questionnaire to complete and return to CCOHS. When all the reviews for a course have been received, CCOHS makes changes as appropriate. Your review does not imply that you or your organization endorses the course in any way. CCOHS does not share or publish the names of course reviewers.

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