Temporary Foreign Worker Housing Requirements

What role does Ottawa Public Health play regarding temporary foreign workers?

Each year, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) works to ensure suitable housing is provided for temporary foreign workers. To achieve this, our Public Health Inspectors ensure these facilities are in compliance with the Health Protection and Promotion Act, the Seasonal Workers Housing Guidelines and any requirements outlined by the federal government.

Our Public Health Inspectors work diligently with seasonal work employment agencies such as, Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services (FARMS), to ensure that facilities are in compliance with guidelines prior to the arrival of workers. The overall goal is to prevent potential health hazards and promote the safety of workers.

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Do temporary foreign workers housing require an inspection?

Farm workers’ housing accommodations are inspected for potential health hazards, water potability (whether the water is safe for drinking), and to check that proper infection prevention and control practices are being followed. See the Housing Inspection Checklist for a sample of what Public Health Inspectors look for during an inspection.

It is strongly recommended that those building new accommodations, renovating existing accommodations, and/or renovating other buildings (e.g. residential homes) for the purpose of accommodating temporary foreign workers consult with the Consult the Building Department, Fire Department, Conservation Authority and Ottawa Public Health.

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How to arrange an inspection of housing accommodations to apply for worker approval.

Farm owners/operators who employ and house temporary foreign workers must notify Ottawa Public Health to arrange a housing inspection. Request a housing inspection by email.

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What steps can the farm owner/operator take prior to inspection to ensure there are no delays with obtaining approval from Ottawa Public Health?

Provide at least two weeks’ notice when requesting an inspection. A Public Health Inspector may be able to accommodate this sooner, but short-term requests cannot be guaranteed.

  • Inspections should be requested and occur prior to the arrival of workers, but conducted not more than one month after the workers arrive.
  • Turn on the water supply, the heating system, and electrical appliances. It is advised to sample the water and obtain a bacteriologically safe result prior to the inspection. More information can be found in the water sampling and testing section below.
  • Ensure that all electrical appliances, such as stoves, smoke detectors, refrigerators and ventilation systems are operating / available for testing.
  • Plan to have an inspection during the spring, summer or fall. Inspections will not be conducted on a winterized unit, unless workers live and work year-long (such as dairy farms)
  • Clean the accommodations thoroughly. If workers are present, the onus is on the farm owner/operator to ensure the bunkhouse will pass an inspection. Check the condition of the accommodation prior to the inspection.
  • Consult the Building Department and/or Fire Department and apply for applicable permits for all new and renovated accommodations, and/or proposed usage of any other building that may house temporary foreign workers.
Housing Inspection Checklist

Housing exterior

  1. Type of housing provided for the workers.
  2. Exterior components of the housing are in good condition and weatherproof.
  3. Sufficient rodent-proof garbage containers are available outside the housing.

Housing interior

  1. Interior components of the housing are in good condition and appropriated sealed.
  2. Ceilings in the living space are at least 2.13 meters (seven feet) high.
  3. A permanent heating system that can maintain a temperature ranging between 20.5 to 23.5°C.
  4. Adequate and suitable lighting by artificial means in the housing.
  5. Adequate ventilation by either natural or artificial in the housing.
  6. Windows and doors in the housing have screens covering all openings to the outside.
  7. Sufficient rodent-proof garbage containers are available inside the housing.
  8. The housing is free from all traces of rodents.
  9. Appliances are clean and maintained in a good working condition.
  10. Sufficient basic furnishings (tables, chairs, couches, shelves) available inside the housing to accommodate the number of workers.
  11. Adequate amount of protective food storage and cupboard space available within a reasonable distance from the kitchen.

Sleeping areas

  1. Sleeping areas partitioned from other living areas.
  2. The mattress size is adequate for workers.
  3. Beds are at least 20 cm (eight inches) off the floor.
  4. Maintain an appropriate distance between all beds.
  5. A storage space or compartment is available for each worker.

Personal washing areas

  1. Personal washing areas partitioned from other living areas.
  2. Toilets and showers provided with privacy barriers.
  3. Toilets are operational, in good working condition and sanitary.
  4. Showers are operational, in good working condition and sanitary.
  5. Hand wash sinks installed adjacent to the toilets.

Water supply

  1. Potable water supply provided for drinking, cooking and washing.
  2. A constant supply of hot and cold running water.

Laundry facilities

  1. Adequate access to onsite laundry facilities


  1. It is the responsibility of the owner/operator to ensure that the facility is compliant with the Ontario Fire Code (i.e. fire extinguishers, smoke alarms).

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Water sampling and testing

Public Health Inspectors can sample the drinking water at the time of inspection, but it is recommended that farm owners/operators test their water for E. coli and total coliform bacteria before workers arrive. Private well owners are encouraged to get their water tested every spring, summer and fall, even if it looks, tastes and smells fine.

Water bottles for testing can be picked up and dropped off at various Ottawa locations at no-cost. Learn more about how and when to test your drinking water.

To inquire about an adverse (unsatisfactory) water quality test result, call Ottawa Public Health at 1-613-580-6744.

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How to report a housing concern or complaint?

If you have any questions or concerns about housing conditions, contact OPH at 1-613-580-6744.

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Health information and resources for workers

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