Area farmers and ranchers should be encouraged to provide input on how new occupational health and safety rules could impact their operations, according to Duncan Milne, a Mountain View County agricultural service board (ASB) member.
Six technical working groups have now made recommendations regarding the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act (Bill 6).
For example, best practices working group is recommending that the government “develop a practical guideline to help employers fulfill their obligation to protect the health and safety of workers who operate and work around tractors” and that the government “revise the current FarmSafe Alberta program to ensure that it meets legislated requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.”
Speaking at last week’s ASB meeting, Milne said providing local input is vital in ensuring the province knows where the local agricultural community stands. “I think everybody should be getting on that so the government gets the idea that there are different opinions out there,” said Milne, who is also the Mountain View County councillor for Division 3.
“And I hope the government takes that input into consideration before they throw this thing at us full-bore.”
The province recently announced that is using an online process to gather public input on the new rules until January.
“Public feedback is important as the government works to ensure updates to the Occupational Health and Safety Code applying to farms and ranches contain common-sense regulations that protect waged, non-family workers while respecting the family farm way of life,” said Minister of Labour Christina Grey, in announcing the input gathering initiative.
The technical working groups that reviewed the occupational health and safety rules under the new act recently completed their work.
“Their recommendations are now posted online and Albertans can provide their input. The government will take as long as is needed to consult with and listen to farmers and ranchers before making any changes,” she said.
Oneil Carlier, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, added: “Our government took action to make life better for farm and ranch workers by providing them with basic workplace protections. These reports came as a result of the hard work of all members of the technical working groups and our farming and ranching community.”
Critics say the government failed to allow enough public input before passing the legislation.
“Farmers, ranchers, producers, family farms, still don’t have a clear picture of what the full implementation of Bill 6 will be,” said Nathan Cooper, the Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA.
Occupational Health and Safety rules only apply to farm and ranch operations that employ waged, non-family workers.
As of Jan. 1, 2016, Workers’ Compensation Board insurance coverage is now required for paid farm workers.
Since Jan. 1, 2016, 2,125 new Workers’ Compensation Board accounts have been opened by agricultural producers employing waged, non-family workers.
Albertans can provide feedback online at alberta.ca/farm-and-ranch and by emailing email@example.com before Jan. 15, 2018.
The Mountain View County ASB provides input to the county and the province on agriculture related issues and concerns.