Updated safety rules for some Alberta farms and ranches to come into effect Dec. 1

Alberta has made 17 exemptions or changes to occupational health and safety rules that will apply to the province’s 4,200 farms and ranches starting on Dec. 1.

 The province announced the changes Wednesday following two years of consultation with the agricultural industry.

The rules are the second phase of the controversial farm safety act, still commonly called Bill 6, which passed in late 2015 after weeks of protests.

Every farm or ranch that employs paid workers who are not family members must perform a hazard assessment.

Industry groups have created a new entity called AgSafe, which is intended to help farmers and ranchers with the transition. The government will provide a $170,000 startup grant to the organization, which will eventually be funded through the industry, much like other safety groups.

The government will provide grants of up to $10,000 to farmers and ranchers to help replace or modify equipment, perform safety assessments or provide safety training for their workers.

None of the rules will apply to farms whose only workers are family members. Children will still be allowed to work on their parents’ farms or ranches without any legal limits.

There are about 14,000 agricultural workers in Alberta who are not related to their employers. The OHS rules will apply to roughly 10 per cent of Alberta’s 40,000 farms and ranches.

One exemption will allow workers to ride on older farm equipment that lacks seatbelts, as long as other safety measures are taken, such as driving slowly.

Farmers can continue to use or sell their existing equipment.

The first phase of the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act came into effect on Jan. 1, 2016. It extended workers’ compensation to paid agricultural workers who were not family members.

More than 1,860 agricultural workers have had WCB claims accepted since then. 

After people in the agricultural sector complained about a lack of consultation, the government set up four working groups to examine the OHS code in detail and make suggestions about what would work.

The government then put that feedback out for comment from October 2017 to the end of February.

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