Why does Workplace Health and Safety Matter?

You care about your team

Employees, suppliers, contractors and family members all play important roles in the success of a farm’s operation – and more importantly make up a close-knit community. Everyone deserves to be protected from injury and illness while at work and to go home safe at the end of every day.

Workplace health and safety impacts your bottom line

Workplace incidents can be extremely costly – whether it is an injury that removes an experienced worker from the day-to-day operations, or a piece of equipment that needs to be replaced. These incidents can make the difference in your operation making a profit in a given year, or recordinga loss.

Recognizing the importance of health and safety and developing a farm safety plan will protect your biggest assets – your workers, your family and your business.

It’s the law

In Nova Scotia, the Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulations establish the standards of workplace health and safety with the aim of preventing workplace incidents, injuries and diseases, and outlines consequences for breaches of those standards.

The Act and Regulations apply to all workplaces in Nova Scotia, no matter the number of employees. However, the requirements each farm needs to fulfill do differ depending on how many regularly employed people you have on your team and the hazards that exist on your farm.


The Department of Labour and Advanced Education defines a workplace as follows, “ ‘workplace’ means a place where a person works for remuneration.”

Regularly employed

Regularly employed includes casual, seasonal, part-time and full-time employees with a predictable recurring period of employment that exceeds four weeks, i.e. someone that comes in to work every other weekend throughout the year would be considered regularly employed.

How does the Occupational Health and Safety Act apply to my farm?

All farms are:

  • Subject to the Act and Regulations.
  • Required to fulfil their responsibilities as employers, as stated in the Act.
  • Required to provide a safe and healthy workplace for all persons at the workplace, i.e. family, employees and
  • visitors.
  • Responsible for determining which specific regulations apply to their operation.

Farms with 1-4 Regular employed employees are:

  • Recommended to prepare and review a written occupational health and safety policy.

Farms with 5-9 regularly employed employees are:

  • Required to ensure employees select one employee who is not connected to management as a safety representative.
  • Required to prepare and review annually a written occupational health and safety policy.

Farms with 20 or more employees are:

  • Required to prepare and review annually a written occupational health and safety policy.
  • Required to establish and maintain a written occupational health and safety program.
  • Required to ensure a joint occupational health and safety committee is formed and maintained.

While this manual will provide you with a high level overview of the OH&S Act, employers have a responsibility to know their obligations under the Act.

To receive a paper copy of the Act, or if you have any questions about which regulations apply to your workplace, you can contact Farm Safety Nova Scotia or the Department of Labour and Advanced Education’s OH&S Division.

Farm Safety Nova Scotia
Occupational Health and Safety Division Department of Labour and Advanced Education

Overview of Insurance

Insurance is a way to manage the business risks on your farm. There are different types of insurance available for workplace injury. Having this insurance will ensure that you have the required coverage should anyone on your farm get hurt at work.

Workers’ Compensation Coverage

WCB Nova Scotia (WCB) provides workplace injury coverage to businesses in Nova Scotia. Most employers in Nova Scotia are required by law through the Workers’ Compensation Act and Regulations to register their business and provide WCB coverage to their employees. However, that is not true for all farm owners and operators.

There are certain commodities (e.g. Christmas tree) and situations (e.g. farms employing workers through the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program) where WCB coverage is required. But for all other commodities within the agriculture industry, it is voluntary.

Benefits to the Employer:

One of the unique features of workers’ compensation insurance is the protection it offers employers against lawsuits over workplace injuries. Regardless of who is at fault, an employee cannot sue their employer if the employer has workers’ compensation coverage. In return, employees receive insurance benefits for workplace injuries.

Benefits to the Employees:

Workers’ compensation benefits are based on an earnings-loss system. This means an employee is paid a percentage of the wages they lose as a result of a workplace injury. An earnings-loss is the difference between what the employee was earning before their injury and what they are able to earn after their injury.

WCB Nova Scotia also provides a range of health care benefits and services to employees as they prepare to return to work. For those who can’t return to work, they provide long-term benefits, health care and other services.

A safe and timely return to work helps reduce the overall human and financial toll of workplace injuries for both employees and employers.

Special Protection:

Protection differs for the owners of the business and for family members of the employer living under the same roof. However, there is special protection coverage available for:

  • Proprietors and partners of a business/firm.
  • Family members of an employer (proprietor, partner, or officer/ director of an incorporation) living in the employer’s household.

For full details on the benefits of coverage or to register contact
WCB Nova Scotia at 1-877-211-9267 or www.wcb.ns.ca

Private Insurance

There are a number of private insurance companies that offer workplace injury coverage. However, the types of coverage available and the benefits of that coverage vary with the provider. While private insurance will provide benefits to the employee, it typically does not provide the benefits to the employer, as does WCB.

For more information on private insurance options, contact your insurance provider or the Atlantic office of the Insurance Bureau of Canada:

Insurance Bureau of Canada (Atlantic)
Tel: 902-429-2730

Nova Scotia’s Workplace Health and Safety Community

There are a number of supports and resources available to assist you in building and maintaining a farm safety plan.

Over the last decade, our province has made significant progress in making more people aware of the importance of workplace health and safety practices.

Here are a few of the organizations you can approach to ask questions or get additional health and safety information. You’ll find their contact information, along with additional resources, in the Workbook accompanying this guide.

Farm Safety Nova Scotia

Farm Safety Nova Scotia (FSNS) is a safety organization focused solely on the agriculture industry in Nova Scotia. Established in July 2010, the Society of Farm Safety Nova Scotia is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing health and safety within the Nova Scotia agriculture industry.

FSNS is a farmer-driven initiative, with a membership consisting of registered farm members of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture. All services and resources provided by FSNS are available to all registered farms in the province.

Farm Safety Nova Scotia invests its efforts in three main areas:

  • Advocacy;
  • Awareness; and
  • Training and Education.

FSNS provides a vast range of training opportunities as well as hands-on resources to help simplify the often overwhelming process of establishing, and maintaining, a safe farming operation. For example, a number of templates and examples are provided through the FSNS website that break down the process of filling out regulatory forms, help to walk through the best ways to identify hazards on farms, and provide clarity on what needs to be done in the immediate aftermath of a workplace incident.

As a member of Farm Safety Nova Scotia, farms receive consistent updates through newsletters keeping everyone updated on changes
to legislation and new resources and supports that may have been added to the website. Farm Safety Nova Scotia prides itself
on its relationships with members, working to be flexible and accommodating to support each farm in creating the safest work
environment possible.

WCB Nova Scotia

WCB Nova Scotia (WCB) is the province’s provider of workplace injury insurance. In addition, WCB Nova Scotia also strives to educate Nova Scotians on the prevention of workplace injury, and if an injury does occur, supports the individual toward a timely and safe return to work. The WCB also provides support in the wake of workplace tragedy.

WCB Nova Scotia manages the website www.worksafeforlife.ca which is a great online resource to access information and tools when preparing your farm safety plan. They also have people available on staff to answer any questions you may have about workplace health and safety within your organization.

Department of Labour and Advanced Education – Occupational Health and Safety Division

The Occupational Health & Safety Division (OH&S) is part of the Nova Scotia Government’s Department of Labour and Advanced Education. This division focuses on ensuring workplaces are safe and healthy, adhering to proper work practices and safety standards.

The OH&S Division also oversees the Internal Responsibility System (IRS), which is the system that acknowledges the responsibility of employers and employees for workplace health and safety. The OH&S Division is responsible for the enforcement of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations.

The Department of Labour and Advanced Education is also home to Outreach Services, which develops, implements and manages educational
and awareness programs and outreach activities, strategies, tools and methods designed to raise awareness of the OHS legislation and
requirements to employers, employees, business associations and the public.

Additional Resources

Government and industry associations can provide lots of support materials, information and planning help. Farmers are encouraged to take advantage of their expertise and availability.

There is a lot of information about workplace health and safety on the Internet, but keep in mind that legislation differs from province to province, and from country to country. Make sure that the information you find is applicable for Nova Scotia workplaces.

Let’s Get to Work

We know that a combination of legislation, common sense, business knowledge and understanding of personal responsibility to family and workers leads us to the inescapable conclusion that a farm safety plan is an essential component of diligent farm management. What we hope to emphasize throughout this manual is the importance of not just creating and “having” a farm safety plan, but actually “living” your farm safety plan. A plan is worthless sitting on a shelf, it must be seen as a living document, constantly being updated and serving as a tool to keep you and your team accountable.

Now that you have made the commitment to health and safety and have your health and safety team together, it’s time to get started developing your plan – and learning how to put it into action.