New rules to improve health and safety for farm and ranch workers have been finalized through strong collaboration between the agricultural sector and the Alberta government.
On Dec. 1, waged, non-family farm and ranch workers will have similar rights and protections as other workers across Canada. These new changes address workplace hazards, safety training and maintenance of equipment.
“Our government has the backs of working people and we value the contributions of Alberta’s farm and ranch communities. We have worked collaboratively with farmers, ranchers and workers to make changes that ensure workers in Alberta benefit from the same protections as workers in other provinces.”
~Christina Gray, Minister of Labour
Prior to the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act, Alberta was the only province without comprehensive health and safety laws for farm and ranch workers.
“All workers have a right to return home safely each day. I am confident the new rules will ensure farm and ranch workers are better protected just like their peers in other provinces. I want to thank Alberta producers for their hard work and for helping find the right balance.”
~Oneil Carlier, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry
Since the government introduced changes to include farms and ranches in workplace health and safety laws in 2016, more than 1,860 agriculture workers have had their workers’ compensation claims accepted. This protection provides workers with the supports they need, when they need them, should injury occur.
“As an organization that has seen health and safety laws successfully protect workers in other provinces, these new changes are a huge step forward for Alberta’s agriculture workers. Occupational Health and Safety in concert with employment standards and labour relations are the foundation of a strong health and safety culture on farms and ranches that benefit workers, their families and society as a whole.”
~Devin Yeager, union labour relations officer, United Food and Commercial Workers
Family members and volunteers will remain exempt from the OHS rules. Neighbours can still provide support to neighbours and kids can still do chores on the farm as they have always done.
The new rules were created through extensive consultation with industry stakeholders over the past two years. Industry representatives, including the AgCoalition, an industry-led organization comprised of representatives from across the agriculture sector, played an essential role in helping government come to consensus on many of these changes. The rules reflect the need to protect health and safety while preserving the unique way of life on farms and ranches.
“Farmers and ranchers in Alberta value health and safety to protect everyone on their work sites and often go above and beyond standard practices. The AgCoalition worked closely with the government to provide grassroots feedback from its membership to ensure the proposed rules reflect the commitment to safety and take into account the unique practicalities of agriculture work. We will continue to work with our farm and ranch members to help them implement these rules and continue to build on the strong culture of farm safety.”
~Albert Kamps, chair, AgCoalition
The AgCoalition created an industry-led non-government organization called AgSafe to work alongside farmers and ranchers as an independent health and safety association. AgSafe will develop programming and additional resources to help farmers and ranchers implement the new rules.
“AgSafe’s goal is to help farmers and ranchers establish practical safety management programs that are aligned with the scope of their operations. AgSafe continues to make good progress working alongside members of Alberta’s agricultural industry to strengthen the safety cultures on farms and ranches.”
~Kent Erickson, chair, AgSafe Alberta and member of the Alberta Wheat Commission
The government will provide $6 million over three years for a farm health and safety producer grant program. Set to launch this fall, it will provide up to $10,000 per recipient to help Alberta farmers and ranchers with waged non-family workers implement health and safety practices and procedures that make their work sites safe for their workers, their families and themselves.
The Alberta government will also provide support materials including booklets, webinars and updated web content. The OHS Contact Centre is also available to support Albertans with any questions or concerns and can be reached at 1-866-415-8690.
History of OHS rules on farms and ranches:
- Jan. 1, 2016: Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act came into effect extending the broad protections of the OHS Act and regulation to waged, non-family workers and entitling them to workers’ compensation in the event of injury.
- May 2016: Four technical working groups formed to look at the OHS code and make recommendations for how the code should apply to farms and ranches.
- Oct. 26, 2017 to Feb. 26, 2018: Government sought feedback on OHS recommendations. The original deadline of Jan. 15 was extended to give Albertans more time to share their thoughts.
- December 2017: Minister Carlier spoke with agriculture producers and commodity groups on the technical working group recommendations.
- June 1, 2018: Updated OHS Act and regulation went into effect giving all workers in provincially regulated industries (including waged, non-family farm and ranch workers) more rights and protections.
- Dec. 1, 2018: Technical rules for workplace health and safety, developed in collaboration with farmers and ranchers and with the consensus of the AgCoalition, will go into effect on farms and ranches, including some provisions unique to the agriculture sector.
Information on the changes is available at Alberta.ca. For new updates, please sign up for AgSafe’s newsletter.