Changes on the way for Alberta farms as OHS legislation tabled in legislature

Big changes are on the way in terms of the rules surrounding farm safety for the province’s 60,000 farm workers and 43,000 farms and ranches.

The Government of Alberta has introduced ‘Bill 6’, the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act in the legislature.

The proposed act would ensure farms and ranch workers are covered by Occupational Health and Safety Act starting January 1st. Workers’ Compensation Board coverage for farm and ranch workers will also be mandatory as of this date.

Changes to Alberta’s Employment Standards and Labour Relations legislation will come into effect in the spring of 2016

Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour Lori Sigurdson says if the bill passes they will be consulting with farmers and ranchers to help figure out what exemptions need to be put in place.

“First we will consult with farmers and ranchers and their workers so we can gain a good understanding of the circumstances that are unique to the industry,” says Sigurdson.  “We know for instance harvest does not fit neatly into an eight-hour day and the calving season does not conform to a statutory holiday so we will speak with and hear from producers, workers and the respective associations.  If the bill passes we can develop rules that makes sense for the industry the employers and the workers.”

The government says it develop detailed occupational health and safety technical rules for farms and ranches. The rules are expected to be in place in 2017.

If the act is passed Occupational, Health and Safety investigators would then be able to conduct investigations of any injuries or deaths as they do with any other work-place accidents.

Changes would include:

  • Ensuring farms and ranches are subject to Occupational Health and Safety legislation to prevent farm and ranch incidents that can result in injury or death.
  • Providing Workers’ Compensation Board insurance coverage so that workers can continue to support their families if they are injured on the job, and protecting farm and ranch owners against the impact of workplace injuries and illness.
  • Including farm and ranches in Employment Standards and Labour Relations legislation.

Up until now Alberta was the only province where OHS legislation does not apply to farms and ranches.

Here is the time line of changes the province is proposing with the act:

  • Occupational Health and Safety Act (and regulations) effective January 1, 2016
  • Workers’ Compensation, effective January 1, 2016 • Labour Relations, effective spring 2016
  • Employment Standards, effective spring 2016
  • Occupational Health and Safety Code (technical requirements), effective in 2017

Sylvan Lake area farmer and Alberta Barley Chairman Mike Ammeter says they are hopeful that the province’s crop commissions will be provided the opportunity to contribute to the process as specific regulatory standards are developed.

“The government said they will consult with us and we have been waiting for that and we’re hopeful to participate in that over the course of the winter cause it sounds like spring is what they want,” says Ammeter.  “Obviously we wanted to be part of the conversation in developing the details so that is good news to us and that’s how it looks like to us as we get into that with government. “

“As elected representatives of Alberta’s barley farmers, we will need time to review potential regulations and carefully consider the impact on the tremendous variety of operations in modern agriculture.”

Ammeter is encouraging all farmers to get out to the open houses: ask questions, raise concerns and get informed about the changes.

Open House Meeting dates and locations:

Grande Prairie – November 26, 2015
Red Deer – December 1, 2015
Okotoks – December 2, 2015
Lethbridge – December 3, 2015
Leduc – December 7, 2015

To register click here. or to provide feedback online click here.

For more information on the proposed act and changes click on the two following links:

http://alberta.ca/release.cfm?xID=38853E7C1F49F-F880-84ED-FB41A569968F17BD

http://work.alberta.ca/documents/farm-and-ranch-QAs.pdf