Workers Health & Safety Centre

Employers now accountable for temp agency worker injuries under new law

More than three years after being passed by the Legislature, changes to Ontario workers’ compensation law intended to protect temporary agency workers are now in effect.
Bill 18, an omnibus bill to enact the provincial budget, was passed in November 2014 but its Schedule 5 amendments to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act were only proclaimed recently by the Ontario government. These changes will allow for the development of a regulation requiring the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) to impose the costs of an injury suffered by a temporary help agency worker on the client or workplace employer.

Worker health and safety and injured workers' advocates say these amendments are long overdue citing WSIB 2016 statistics which report non-clerical temporary workers are more than twice as likely to get hurt on the job than those in permanent jobs. Closing this injury liability loophole by assigning responsibility and costs to the workplace employer may help stop the practice of contracting out hazardous work to poorly trained temp workers. Worker advocates hope the changes will help secure just compensation for injured workers, but also refocus workplace prevention efforts on eliminating the source of injury—the hazards themselves.

Evidence for Prevention

A 2014 report by the Institute for Work & Health examining injury prevention and return to work in temporary work agencies concluded Ontario’s compensation system had built-in legal incentives to encourage outsourcing of hazardous work which puts worker health and safety at risk. Along with closing policy loopholes, like those just proclaimed, the report authors also recommended joint health and safety committee requirements be applied to temporary agencies and more proactive Ministry of Labour inspections of workplaces known to employ many temp agency workers. A 2012 report by the Law Commission of Ontario on Vulnerable Workers and Precarious Work came to many of the same conclusions.

The use of temporary agencies has risen dramatically in recent years. It’s now on the public’s radar due in part to the Toronto Star’s coverage including a firsthand account, Undercover in Temp Nation, by Star Reporter Sara Mojtehedzadeh, who worked undercover at Fiera Foods for one month.

Prior to this, the Star reported extensively on the 2016 death of 23-year-old Amina Diaby. A temporary agency worker and recent refugee, Diaby was on the job for two weeks when her hijab became caught in improperly guarded equipment strangling her to death. Fiera Foods, the Toronto commercial bakery who hired Diaby from a temp agency pleaded guilty and was convicted and fined $300,000 in her death.

Through freedom of information requests, the Star obtained WSIB investigation reports into Diaby’s death which found a general lack of training and none on the use of emergency stop buttons. Without this instruction, Diaby’s co-workers were unable to locate the stop button that may have saved her life. Protective machine guards were also absent from equipment according to the WSIB report.

The Star also reported Fiera Foods had received a $44,000 rebate from the WSIB months after Diaby’s death. This was eventually revoked by the WSIB under rarely used powers where health and safety violations are suspected.

Fiera Foods and a sister company, Marmora Freezing Corp., had been previously fined by the Ministry of Labour. In 1999, Ivan Golyashov, a 17-year-old temp worker was killed at a Fiera Foods plant when the dough mixer he was cleaning was accidentally turned on. Police investigators cited a lack of training as a factor. In 2011, Aydin Kazimov, 69, was run over by a transport truck in a parking lot outside Marmora Freezing. MOL convictions brought fines of $150,000 in each case.
Read related Toronto Star articles:
More concerns with temp agencies and the companies who rely on them
This temp worker was being strangled by a machine. Her co-worker didn’t know how to help
New law to make employers accountable for temp worker injuries
Temp agencies pose ‘significant challenges’ to compensation board, internal audit shows

Read related WHSC articles:
Precarious employment impacts health of working women
Forum to explore challenges faced by workers new to Canada
Stressful work factors driving cardiovascular disease
The Workers Health & Safety Centre assists all workplace parties through general and hazard-specific training programs and information services. Along with many mandatory programs like Awareness Training for Workers and Supervisor Health and Safety Training, WHSC also offers recently updated lockout training and a helpful hazard bulletin Lockout: de-energizing hazards. All of these resources are aimed at raising awareness about workplace hazards and their prevention.  

To learn more: 
Call:   1-888-869-7950 and ask to speak with a training services representative