Alberta’s New Democratic Party was the only major party in the 2015 provincial election to even mention Occupational Health and Safety in their platform. Now, as they really start getting to business, they have officially introduced a farm safety bill that will take effect on January 1, 2015.
Bill 6 can be reviewed here.
As of this moment, Alberta is the only province in Canada where farming and ranching is not covered by OHS legislation. The Conservative Party, which had held office provincially since 1971, had consistently dragged their heels on this issue rather than risk angering a significant part of their support base. But the NDP, with their fresh take on business-related policy, are determined to ensure that every employee in Alberta enjoys the same protection.
The move affects about 60,000 workers—about as many people as are currently living in Airdrie—in 43,000 farming and ranching businesses. The bottom line is that all these people will enjoy protection under Alberta’s OHS legislation as well as mandatory Workers Compensation Board coverage, something they have not had in this province before.
It should be noted that recent clarifications by the government indicate that Bill 6 will have no impact on family farms and ranches—the OHS, WCB and employment standards revisions are strictly going to be directed at the protection of employees, so wives, sons and daughters who are not drawing paycheques as employees will be able to carry on as before—this is potentially a can of worms, so it will be important to stay current on any developments on this front as it may be perceived as creating a competitive advantage for some businesses over others.
Although the farming and ranching industry will have to get up to speed on OHS in only a few weeks, it still remains to be seen exactly what compliance for this industry will look like—there are currently no parts of the OHS Act, Regulation, or Code that pertain to farms or ranches and it will undoubtedly take some time to incorporate those things. In fact, in accordance with Bill 6, the OHS Code will not apply to farms and ranches until revisions to the Code have been made to address the farming and ranching industry.
What we can say for sure are that the general requirements of Alberta’s OHS Act and Regulation will now apply. Beginning in January, workers will have the right to know, the right to refuse unsafe work, and the right to participate in the safety process. Employers will have the obligation to identify and control workplace hazards and to ensure their workers understand what those hazards and controls are.
Although the Code will not officially apply until 2017, in order to exercise due diligence it is probable that farms and ranches will need to be at least somewhat familiar with some of the pertinent parts. Aside from hazard assessment and control (OHS Code, Part 2), there are several parts of the Code that might apply to farms and ranches, for example:
- Chemical and Biological Hazards (Code, Part 4),
- Emergency Preparedness (Code, Part 7),
- First Aid (Code, Part 11),
- Lifting and Handling Loads (Code, Part 14), and
- Powered Mobile Equipment (Code, Part 19).
Farms have been able to take on WCB coverage to this point, but have not been required to do so. That’s also changing on Jan. 1 with farms and ranches expected to provide WCB for employees in the same way as other business in Alberta. Because there are so many businesses that will need to set themselves up with WCB coverage, farms and ranches will have until April 30, 2016 to get set up in one under one of the four industry codes, with premiums ranging from $1.70-$2.97 per $100 of insurable earnings.
Further details on WCB for farms and ranches can be found here.
Flannery Safety Consulting can help with your questions about OHS, WCB and the impact the coming changes will have on the farming and ranching industries. Give us a call at (403) 715-4162 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.