A consultant’s report released by Alberta Agriculture has recommended that an industry stakeholder group be established to support the development of health and safety practices in the agriculture industry. In response, Agriculture Minister Jack Hayden has created the Farm Safety Advisory Council to advise the government on farm safety issues.
“This council will bring industry and government together to find ways to reduce farm injuries without increasing the regulatory and financial burden on our producers,” Hayden said. Council members will be appointed in the new year from farm safety organizations, municipalities, agricultural organizations, and farm workers.
The report made several recommendations involving safety awareness campaigns, a long-term safety strategy, involvement of other organizations and stakeholders, consideration of incentives for improved practices, and investigating the inclusion of contractors and to develop a best-practices guide for high-risk duties.
The report recognizes that Alberta is the only jurisdiction in Canada that did not cover farm workers under provincial occupational health and safety legislation. It recommended further investigation into how other provinces have accommodated their farm workers in their worker legislation, and that the B.C. be reviewed.
Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, said that the government was still not willing to stand up for the rights of farm workers. Eric Museaamp, president of the Farm Workers Union of Alberta said, “The announcement proves that the government has done as the industry has commanded them to do. Farm worker rights remain a fiasco.” The Farm Workers Union was one of the organizations that was consulted by the authors of the report. They plan to continue to participant and will sit on the new safety council if asked. “Its becoming a matter of equal human rights for those workers in Alberta,” Museaamp said.
Hayden said the council could look at whether some agricultural operations were more industrial and needed to be treated differently from traditional farm operations.