A new provincial safety grant will make it easier — or at least cheaper — for farmers to comply with upcoming occupational health and safety requirements.
“The province recognized that by putting those rules in place, many farms with employees were going to have to do some upgrading or some training to meet those new technical rules,” said Jody Wacowich, executive director of AgSafe Alberta. “They wanted to support producers in getting to that point.”
The Farm Health and Safety Producer Grant program, which launched Oct. 15, has earmarked up to $6 million over three years for on-farm safety upgrades on a first-come, first-served basis. Eligible producers can get back up to 50 per cent of certain expenses, up to a maximum of $5,000 per year or $10,000 over the life of the program. The program covers safety equipment (such as first aid kits, warning signs, and fire extinguishers), personal protective equipment, health and safety training, and equipment upgrades (including seatbelt installation, warning lights, and auger guards).
“We’ve been working to find a way to help producers with the added costs for the legislation coming up,” said provincial farm safety specialist Blair Takahashi. “It was our intent to help them be safer and keep their workers healthier by helping them with some funding. This is just a little helping hand.”
Only farms and ranches with waged, non-family workers and a Workers Compensation Board (WCB) account can apply.
“The priority right now is helping those farms with employees meet the code and regulations,” said Wacowich. “We want to bring everything up to code so that we can create a better workplace for the employees.”
The new Occupational Health and Safety regulations come into effect Dec. 1. These new rules cover items such as hoists and lifts; stair risers and handrails; fall protection and fixed ladders; inspections and maintenance of “powered mobile equipment”; and rollover bars and structures. They also cover decibel levels for continuous noise; rules for riding on loads (riding on top of a load is not allowed and speeds must be under 10 km/h); and recapping needles. (An overview of the new rules can be found at www.alberta.ca — search for ‘ohs farm’ and then click on “Occupational health & safety: Farm and ranch.”)
Family farms are exempt from these new regulations and, as such, aren’t eligible for grant funding under the new provincial program, said Wacowich.
“I think a little further down the road, we’ll look at opportunities for family farms to make the same improvements on their farms as well,” she said.
However, the province offers free safety resources on its website and through its staff, added Takahashi.
“If they want to learn how to create a health and safety management system or need to find other resources, we can help them with that.”
Producers are already employing some of those best management practices on their farm, but in some cases just need a little help formalizing it, he said.
“Farmers understand most of the hazards and are doing those hazard assessments — just maybe not in writing,” said Takahashi. “We just need to get it down on paper or at least have them communicate it with their workers.”
That’s one of the low-hanging fruits that will help farmers improve safety on their farm, even if they aren’t able to access this new grant funding, he said.
“At the end of the day, we just want our farmers to be healthy and safe.”
But for farms with waged, non-family employees, this grant is a good opportunity to offset some of the costs of these new rules.
“If you’re going to be working to improve the safety of your farm for your employee, why not get some support from the government in doing so?” said Wacowich.
“It gives you a little bit more money to work with when you make those improvements.”
Program application forms, as well as a complete list of eligible expenses, can be found at the Alberta Agriculture website.
– With staff files