Final piece of controversial Bill 6 enacted in Alberta

After years of controversy, debate and consultation the final piece of Bill 6 is now in place in Alberta.

A detailed Occupational Health and Safety Code tailored to farms and ranches is the last phase of the legislation.

Specifically the code, which applies to approximately 4,100 operations around the province that employ waged and non-family workers, contains technical health and safety rules designed for farm operations.

Under the rules, family and volunteers are exempt from the OHS rules and neighbours can still provide support.

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This is the final step in what has been a three-year process, which began with massive protests, farmers driving farm machinery to Edmonton and public outcry when the bill was first introduced in the legislature in late 2015.

The rallies led to massive turnouts at government hosted town halls across the province, which in most cases were heated exchanges.

The town halls led to revisions and consultations through working groups made up of people from across the industry.

During the process, AgSafe Alberta, an industry-led, non-government health and safety association, was created to help farmers and ranchers get the resources they needed to implement the new rules.

The province says the first year the regulations came into effect the overall injury rate decreased 21 per cent and the serious injury rate decreased 23 per cent.

The Alberta Government is offering up to $6-million over the next three years to eligible producers to help them offset the costs of implementing the new rules through the Farm Health and Safety Producer Grant program.

A timeline of the changes made since Bill 6 was passed into law:

January 1, 2016:

– Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) basic safety standards apply to waged, non-family workers while they’re on site.

– Employers must take reasonable steps to provide a safe and healthy workplace

– Workers will be able to refuse unsafe work that presents an imminent danger

– OHS is able to investigate serious injuries and fatalities

– Workers Compensation Board (WCB) insurance coverage is required for waged, non-family workers.

January 1, 2018

– Employment Standards rules and exemptions specific to waged, non-family workers

– Labour Relations coverage to allow waged, non-family workers the right to form unions, bargain collectively and take legal job action

December 1, 2018

– Detailed OHS technical rules specific to the farm and ranch industry come into effect