Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) procedures have not changed recently but their focus has.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture has noticed an awareness gap between farmers and the WSIB requirements around coverage for custom farm workers and independent operators. OFA members and executive alike have experienced more scrutiny by inspectors lately, particularly in this area.
One of the most common misconceptions seems to be around who is considered a farm employee. Farmers know to register permanent or part-time payroll employees but what about students, relatives etc.? WSIB expects farmers, as employers, to provide WSIB coverage to anyone paid to work on the farm. Workers include: all full and part-time employees; any casual or seasonal labour; family members or friends; and anyone else paid for work on the farm.
That could even include a neighbour asked to come over for a day and use a machine on a field, or to fix something the neighbour specializes in. If they are paid, they count.
If a farmer hires an independent contractor that is essentially a one-person business that is separate from the farm and he or she does not hire any other help, the farmer must ensure that contractor has a clearance certificate.
That proves that the contractor is covered by WSIB. It is a free document issued by WSIB that assures the contractor is: registered with them; has filed all premium and reconciliation forms; and has paid all premiums based on their reported payroll.
The purpose of the clearance certificate is to ensure financial protection for farmers who hire contractors and sub-contractors to do work. A clearance certificate should be obtained prior to the commencement of contract work, is valid for 60 days and cannot be back dated.
Anyone unsure of an individual’s status with the WSIB, should request a status determination. Someone who is hired or performs custom farm work is also considered an independent operator, an employee or worker.
The law requires all farming operations that pay wages to register with the WSIB within 10 days of hiring and pay premiums to provide coverage for their workers in case of a workplace injury or illness.
As a farmer I agree this appears to be extra work but the WSIB provides us, as an employer, with protection from legal action in the event of a workplace injury or illness. WSIB will fine us if we do not have the proper coverage in place and can hold us liable for another employer’s insurance premiums if these documents have not been obtained before the work begins.
So in order to be protected, first ask for proof of status. That could be a clearance certificate or an independent operator approval from WSIB. If the potential employee does not have any WSIB clearance, ensure to fill out the WSIB form that highlights the working relationship between the farmer and any individual providing custom farm work or is an independent operator.
It’s important to find out if they have WSIB for themselves and their employees. If the potential worker can produce a clearance certificate, ask for a copy to have it on file for inspectors.
A bit of paperwork up front can help avoid non-compliance charges, interest charges, and the possibility of paying another company’s WSIB premiums.
The OFA cannot change these laws but it wants to help members understand how they work and to inform farmers that they are being enforced. If anyone has any questions about a farm business as it pertains to WSIB, call OFA or check the WSIB fact sheets at www.ofa.on.ca or www.wsibon.ca.