Occupational health and safety: Farm and ranch

Waged, non-family farm and ranch workers are protected under basic safety standards in the OHS Act as of January 31, 2020.

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Farm and ranch workplace legislation


The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act sets the minimum standards for protecting waged, non-family farm and ranch workers.

  • Employers must ensure the health and safety of workers on the site, as far as is reasonably practicable.
  • Workers must work safely and cooperate with their employer to keep the workplace safe.

Who’s affected

Farms and ranches with at least one waged, non-family worker are covered by the basic safety standards set out in the OHS Act. Farms and ranches with joint health and safety committees or health and safety representatives must comply with specific rules for committees and representatives in the OHS Code. The other parts of the OHS Code and the OHS Regulation do not apply to farms and ranches. For farms and ranches, training is required only for committee co-chairs and representatives and not for committee members.

This includes the above farm and ranch operations involved with:

  • production of crops, including fruits and vegetables, through the cultivation of land
  • raising and maintenance of animals or birds
  • keeping of bees

The following are not considered farm and ranch operations in relation to OHS:

  • processing of food or other products from the operations referred to above
  • operation of greenhouses, mushroom farms, nurseries or sod farms
  • landscaping
  • raising or boarding of pets

OHS rules only apply to an operation if a waged, non-family worker is present on the farm or ranch, and then only to those individuals.

OHS rules do not apply:

  • to family members of the owner of a farm or ranch operation
  • to the private residence, which includes areas around the home like the lawn area, backyard or garden
  • when people are doing non-work related activities on their land, such as recreational activities like horseback riding or hunting

Family and friends can continue contributing to farming operations as they always have and neighbours can still volunteer to help each other out.

A family member is defined as:

  • the spouse or adult interdependent partner of the farm or ranch owner; or
  • a child, parent, grandparent, sibling, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew or first cousin of the farm or ranch owner. This relation can be by blood, marriage, or adoption, or by virtue of an adult interdependent relationship.

Basic safety standards

Producers with waged, non-family workers must:

  • follow generally acceptable industry standards
  • apply general health and safety principles

Basic rights

Workers have 3 basic rights:

  1. the right to refuse dangerous work
  2. the right to know of potential hazards and have access to basic workplace health and safety information
  3. the right to participate in workplace health and safety

Investigations and inspections

OHS officers are authorized to investigate serious injuries or deaths of paid, non-family workers. Such investigations could involve reviewing health and safety procedures, condition of equipment, availability of training, etc.

OHS does not investigate non-paid or non-work related incidents. However, an owner may request an investigation of an incident involving a resident to help determine what went wrong and provide information to help prevent similar incidents from happening elsewhere.

OHS officers may inspect farms that do not meet basic standards. However, inspectors cannot conduct those inspections without a cause. Cause includes a complaint, a fatality, a serious injury, or a record of unsafe behaviours.

OHS contraventions

Resolving the situation is the first objective. Penalties or prosecutions may be appropriate in certain circumstances where there are serious, repeat or wilful contraventions or failures.

OHS officer training

Some of our officers already have extensive farming experience, while others will undergo training. Similar to other industries, experts can always be brought in to provide input and advice during investigations that follow a serious injury or fatality.


Connect with OHS:

Phone: 780-415-8690 (Edmonton)
Toll free: 1-866-415-8690