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Modernized rules increase farm worker protection in Alberta

Government offering grants to help farmers, ranchers implement health and safety practices
| www.cos-mag.com
Alberta farm
New rules for Alberta ranchers and farmers come into effect on Dec. 1, but family members and neighbours are exempt. REUTERS/Todd Korol/File Photo

On Dec. 1, waged, non-family farm and ranch workers in Alberta 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,” said Minister of Labour Christina Gray.

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,” said Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Oneil Carlier.

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,” said 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 the 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,” said 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.

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.

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