Posted on Dec 10, 2015

A note on the Enhanced Farm and Ranch Safety Act

Canola farm

After extensive debate the Enhanced Farm and Ranch Safety Act was passed on December 10th in the Alberta Legislature. Many of you have questions and concerns about what this means for you and how this bill might affect farms in our constituency.

This farm safety legislation will provide safety rules and a compensation system for those killed or injured at work. It won’t interfere with children learning from their parents about farming, doing their chores or participating in 4-H. It won’t prevent neighbours from volunteering to help each other out. It won’t regulate how you operate your household or interfere with recreational activities on your farm. The only time Occupational Health & Safety will come on your property is if there is a serious incident that must be investigated. 

Practically speaking, farms with paid employees will be required to provide safe working environments starting on January 1st, 2016. This coverage must be in place by April 30th, 2016. OH&S regulations will be determined through an extensive consultation process and will not come into effect until 2017.

OH&S regulations have not been drafted yet. Those regulations will come after consultation with the farming community. We will continue to consult with farmers and ranchers until regulations are determined. Those regulations will be specifically tailored to farm and ranch life. The same rules do not apply to all industries. Even now, OH&S means different things in different workplaces. The regulations for the farm community are to be reasonable and not unduly burdensome, whatever they may be.

I will advocate for the farm community to ensure that the regulations that will be drafted are fair.

Until those regulations are drafted, it is business as usual. The only immediate change is that paid workers need to have WCB coverage. The vast majority of farmers are not pushing their employees to do unsafe work so that part of the bill will not affect you whatsoever. 

This bill is only intended to bring Alberta’s safety standards on farms and ranches in line with every other province in Canada. As Premier Notley said: “It is aimed at extending to agricultural employees and their employers – and only employers and employees – safety rules and a compensation system for those killed or injured at work, similar to other provinces.”

I will advocate for the farm community to ensure that the regulations that will be drafted are fair. Preservation of family farm traditions and protection of farm and ranch employees are complementary goals of Bill 6. I am confident that family farms can continue to grow and thrive while we ensure our farm and ranch workers are safe while on the job. I encourage you to keep providing your feedback. I've had some very meaningful and spirited conversations with many of you. Farm people are passionate, intelligent and hard working. Your voices are very clear, your opinions and ideas are valuable, and we hope you will join the discussion as we move through this consultation period.