OHS For Farms Is Coming Soon to Alberta

Photo: Tracey Flannery

Photo: Tracey Flannery

Revised 4-Dec-2015

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 jim@flannerysafetyconsulting.com.

You can also follow us on Facebook and on Twitter.

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Movember

Photo on 2015-11-01 at 12.38 PM

I’ve been thinking about this for a couple years now, but here in 2015 I finally decided to take the plunge and take part in Movember.

Pleas head over to my Movember campaign page and give generously for the worthy cause of finding a cure for prostate cancer. My target is $500, but I’d love to blow that goal out of the water.

More to come….

Competence

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“Competent” is one of those words that pops up every now and then in Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety legislation that many people don’t think too much about, which is a huge mistake. That word means something and when you see it, you need to pause and put some thought to you’re game plan going forward.

According to the definitions found at the beginning of both the Alberta OHS Regulation and Code:

“competent” in relation to a person, means adequately qualified, suitably trained and with sufficient experience to safely perform work without supervision or with only a minimal degree of supervision.

Perhaps you are someone who grew up on a farm. At a very young age, you began helping out with chores and one of them was operating a forklift used to offload bales of hay for the farm animals. By the time you got your driver’s licence at age 16, you were an expert forklift operator. You have plenty of experience and your parents and relatives may have given you a bunch of training in how to run that piece of equipment. But until you’ve gone through a forklift training course and received a certification to prove that you’re adequately qualified, you can’t be deemed competent and can’t, by law, operate a forklift as part of your occupation.

There are lots of situations where this kind of thing comes up. For instance, all scaffolds must be inspected and tagged by a competent worker prior to use and every 21 days thereafter. (Code, Part 23, 326(3)). Again, you may have been putting up scaffold for most of your career, but unless you’ve been properly deemed competent, you’re doing it illegally and could be fined.

Bottom line: If you’re looking through the legislation to see what the Alberta OHS expectations are for a particular circumstance and you see the word “competent,” you need to stop and ask yourself three questions: Am I adequately qualified? Am I suitably trained? Do I have sufficient experience? If the answer to any of those questions is “no,” you’ve got some things to take care of prior to beginning that work or you could find yourself in a whole heap of trouble.

Flannery Safety Consulting provides services in the Lethbridge area. If you have any questions or inquiries, please don’t hesitate to contact Jim Flannery at jim@flannerysafetyconsulting.com or (403) 715-4162.

You can also follow us on Facebook and on Twitter.

How Can Flannery Safety Consulting Help You?

Flannery Safety Consulting offers clients safety consulting, training and management. Whether it be for building or improving your safety program, group training, or monitoring your safety activities, we can assist you in achieving your safety goals.

So much of the safety world seems to be wrapped up in the negative, focussing on what can go wrong, how many injuries or incidents a company has had, etc. We strive to make your experience a positive one, looking at what is being done right and building on that.

Flannery Safety Consulting has a number of different ways to help you:

  • Consultant Auditing through the ACSA
  • Ongoing monitoring and support for your safety program
  • Assistance in incident investigation, injury claims management
  • Training in generic and company-specific WHMIS
  • Help and advice on managing your WCB account
  • Assessment of your company’s unique safety needs and requirements
  • Assisting in the creation and/or improvement of your safety program
  • Assisting in development of safe work practices and safe job procedures
  • Assisting in developing custom forms to fit your company and advice on whether a paper format or an electronic one is best for you
  • Help with registering in the Partnerships in Injury Reduction (PIR) program through Alberta’s WCB and selecting a certifying partner to best suit your needs
  • Pre-audit evaluation of your program to ensure it meets Certificate of Recognition (COR) or Small Employer Certificate of Recognition (SECOR) standards
  • Assisting in rolling out the safety program to your company

Jim Flannery is an NCSO and has worked in the construction safety field since 2000. He has worked for companies with as few as six workers as well as multi-national corporations, giving him a broad-based understanding of construction safety in a variety of scales and scopes. He has completed the University of Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety certificate program, is a Gold Seal-certified Safety Coordinator and is a Canadian Registered Safety Professional (CRSP). Jim has a BA in English, has a quarter-century of construction experience under his belt both on the tools and off, and is a part-time freelance writer.

If you have any questions or inquiries, please don’t hesitate to contact Jim Flannery at jim@flannerysafetyconsulting.com or (403) 715-4162.

You can also follow us on Facebook and on Twitter.

Legislative Compliance

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A good place to start when considering what your company needs as far as a safety program is concerned is to look at what your local laws require. Here in Alberta, there are a number of safety requirements noted within Alberta’s Occupational Act, Regulation and Code. Among them are:

  • Worker’s Right to Know, including access to OHS legislation, WHMIS, practices, procedures, availability of specifications to workers, and adequate training (Act and Regulation)
  • Worker’s Right to Participate in the safety process (Code)
  • Worker’s “Right” to Refuse unsafe work (Act)
  • Report all serious incidents to OHS officers (ie. injury requiring hospital stay of more than 48 hours; fatality; unplanned fire or flood; collapse of crane; collapse of structure) (Act)
  • Orders or notices must be posted where workers can see them until the order or notice is satisfied; Acceptances must be posted or shared (Reg)
  • Written hazard assessment of the work site prior to work beginning, at reasonable intervals afterwards, when a new work process is introduced, when operations change, and before the construction of significant additions or alterations to a work site (Code)
  • Practices and procedures must be written, depending on the work to be performed (Code).
  • Appropriate number of first aiders and first aid equipment on site (Code)
  • Appropriate number of toilet facilities on site and per gender (Code)
  • Up-to-date and readily accessible MSDS for all controlled products (Code)

And this really just scratches the surface.

Once this framework is laid out, a company should be in good shape to demonstrate due diligence in dealings with Workplace Health and Safety officers. Further, it lays most of the groundwork for acquiring a Certificate of Recognition (COR) through Alberta’s Partnerships in Injury Reduction (PIR) program.

Having a COR gives a company a minimum five percent rebate on their WCB premiums—in some cases up to 20 percent, depending on the company’s historical performance. For a company that already has a good record of avoiding workplace injuries, this is easy money put back in your pocket for the simple act of protecting your most valuable asset: your people.

Flannery Safety Consulting can help you develop an effective safety program that brings you into compliance with Alberta’s OHS legislation. We can also guide you through the process of achieving a COR. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Jim at jim@flannerysafetyconsulting.com or by phone at 403-715-4162

Office Ergonomics

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Ergonomics is not a word you’ll hear very often out on a ranch while busting broncos or baling hay. It is, however, a major concern in the modern office environment.

It is becoming a well-established concern for the 21st Century office worker that sitting at your desk all day is a very unhealthy practice. A recent study by the Conference Board of Canada and ParticipAction suggests that prolonged sitting promotes hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. In other words, sitting could very well be killing you.

But all is not lost. A few simple changes around the office can improve your health by leaps and bounds and break the chain of bad consequences for sitting.

The first change is to get up and move around. Make it your business to walk around the office—even for just a minute or two—once or twice per hour. These micro-breaks help break the negative effects of long sedentary periods by getting the blood flowing and your muscles moving.

Something else you can easily do to get out of the saddle and onto your feet is to stand while taking phone calls. In my office there are actually a couple people who pace around the office whenever they’re on a cell phone call. Again, an opportunity to be moving while doing something that doesn’t require you to be right at your desk.

Some companies are trying out standing desks as an alternative to sitting in a chair all day. As noted on Smithsonian.com, using a standing desk instead of the traditional sitting desk results in reduced risk of obesity, reduced risk of Type 2 Diabetes, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, reduced risk of cancer, and lower long-term mortality risk due to all those previous benefits.

If you’re still stuck sitting for your job, there are still some steps you can take to make it as easy on your body as possible. Make sure your task chair is set up properly—it needs to be at the right height, putting your knees are at right angles with your feet flat on the floor, it needs to give you proper lumbar support and it needs to keep you upright and reduce the likelihood of you slumping or slouching.

The keyboard should be positioned so that your elbows are at right angles, with the “H” key centred on the monitor. The mouse should be positioned close by, such that it can be used with the wrist flat and straight, not bent up or down.

Lighting levels need to be adequate to reduce squinting and reduce glare off the monitor.

Set up your office properly and you can mitigate several issues associated with sitting.

This isn’t just a good idea for individual workers; it’s a good idea for companies as well. Healthy workers observing good ergonomic practices are thinking more clearly, make fewer mistakes, get injured less often and are away due to illness less frequently. The net result is better productivity and better profitability. And that is, after all, the point of operating a business.

References:

Sedentary living is the ‘new smoking’ and we’re paying for it, study says. http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/sedentary-living-is-the-new-smoking-and-we-re-paying-for-it-study-says-1.2811872

Five Health Benefits of Standing Desks. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/five-health-benefits-standing-desks-180950259/?no-ist

Article originally published in Buck Up! Magazine, Issue 7, May/June, 2015

Jim can be reached at jim@flannerysafetyconsulting.com