Thursday, 11 May 2017 05:48

Only more evidence will prove Bill 6’s viability

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Hopefully everybody will stay safe, but one wonders with all the talk about Bill 6 and all the changes and implementation of new laws for farm workers, how much will really change this year.

Workers Compensation Board insurance coverage is now required for paid workers and Occupational Health and Safety standards apply to those working on Alberta farms.
Alberta was the only province that had no official protection for farm workers.
When the NDP rammed through the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act in late 2015, it caused an uproar and angry pushback from those in the Alberta agricultural community on how it was implemented and the lack of consultation or ability to make farmers’ feelings known.
There was concern about how there was going to be a destruction of the family farm, an invasion of privacy, and how much it was going to financially hurt the industry as well as its time-consuming nature.
According to the Workers’ Compensation Board, in 2016 there were 793 farm injury-related WCB claims with 3,629 operations registered.
Throwing all the cold statistics aside, 2016 was a bit of a mulligan with the numbers.
That year was the first full year with the new rules in place. It was the first agricultural season with a more intense focus on farm safety, more talking about laws and regulations, with something more tangible in writing.
While one hears of resentment towards the government in general either via letters to the editor, social media or rather harsh-worded signs and bumper stickers on farm vehicles, there hasn’t been a lot in the way of agricultural-centric protests since the emotional ones in 2015.
Oddly, this has happened despite the fact, the provincial government during its 2015 tours of communities which filled arenas, town halls and hotels full of angry, distraught and rightly confused farmers told producers Bill 6 was passing without full discussions with the agricultural community and they would make adjustments, amendments and additions to Bill 6 later. Those adjustments still haven’t occurred yet as even up to March of this year, the government was asking farmers’ opinions. They had up to April 3 to provide feedback to the government.
While farmers wait for the inevitable changes to the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act, they still need to go about their business. They have to work the land, tilling, spraying, seeding, calving, etc.
It will be interesting to see this year whether the number of injuries on farms decreases or increases and whether the number of WCB claims increases.
One thing that is anecdotal, there seems to be a noticeable amount of agricultural safety training courses, seminars, webinars and an intense focus at different fairs and events on farm safety. This was not only last year, but seems to be this year too.
Some may argue the training was always there, but no one really noticed or cared. Perhaps cynics may say farm safety training is trendy or the “in thing” people are talking about or something upon which businesses are trying to capitalize.
Regardless, it is good that there is more intense scrutiny on working more safely on the farm for all employees, especially for younger family members. Obviously there are extra financial considerations and commitments when it comes to Bill 6. Perhaps more time is required to complete paperwork relating to working safely on the farm.
Implementation of Bill 6 caused a lot of understandable stress, but at the least, it did one thing: while those in the agricultural community may not like having regulations and new laws pushed on them, “farm safety” is at least one way or another burned in their active consciences.
Farmers and ranchers will argue safety always was paramount; it has to be in order for them to operate their businesses. They don’t need anyone in a professional suit in Edmonton to tell them otherwise. More proof will be in the numbers now and over the foreseeable future.
Ryan Dahlman is managing editor with the Prairie Post. Contact him with your comments about this opinion piece at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor