Occupational health and safety: Farm and ranch
Waged, non-family farm and ranch workers are protected under basic safety standards. Industry-specific rules come into effect Dec. 1, 2018.
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.
Basic safety standards are now in place. Prior to 2016, Alberta was the only province where farms and ranches were still exempt from workplace health and safety laws.
Detailed technical rules that reflect the unique aspects of the industry come into effect on Dec. 1, 2018.
The new rules are the result of extensive collaboration with farmers and other members of the agriculture industry. They give farm and ranch workers similar rights and protections as other workers, while preserving the unique way of life on farms and ranches.
Learn the rules
We're working with AgSafe Alberta to provide resources and information to help you implement health and safety rules on your farm.
Farms and ranches with at least one waged, non-family worker are covered by the basic safety standards set out in the OHS Act and will be covered by the appropriate technical rules once they come into effect on Dec. 1, 2018.
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
Until the detailed technical rules with agriculture specific provisions come into effect on Dec. 1, 2018, producers with non-family, waged workers must:
- follow generally acceptable industry standards
- apply general health and safety principles including guarding and the use of personal protective equipment
Workers have 3 basic rights:
- the right to refuse dangerous work
- the right to know of potential hazards and have access to basic workplace health and safety information
- the right to participate in workplace health and safety
Resource: Worker participation in health and safety (PDF, 284 KB)
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, or a record of unsafe behaviours.
Resolving the situation is the first objective. Penalties or prosecutions may be appropriate in certain circumstances where there are serious, repeat or willful 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.
Equipment technical rules
The following rules are unique to the agriculture industry. They come into effect on Dec. 1, 2018, along with the rest of the OHS Code.
- Legacy equipment, or existing equipment, can continue to be used and sold.
- Manufacturer’s specifications should be followed, if available, to identify health and safety hazards and proper maintenance and operational procedures.
- Modified equipment can be certified by a competent person or service provider, such as an agricultural mechanic, instead of a professional engineer.
“Competent” means adequately qualified, suitably trained with experience to do the work without supervision or minimal supervision.
- Workers may be raised or lowered in loader buckets if it is not reasonable or practical to use another machine or equipment designed for that purpose and the bucket is secured to prevent unintended movement.
- Workers lifted over 3 metres (10 ft) must wear appropriate fall protection.
Lifting devices – rated load capacity
- In all other industries, the rated load capacity, manufacturer’s name, model, serial number and date of manufacture needs to be permanently marked on the equipment.
- In agriculture:
- other communication methods can be used if labels cannot be attached to a lifting device
- load capacity information must be readily available at the work site
- workers must be trained to understand the significance of the equipment’s load capacity to ensure safe operation
Rollover Protective Structures (ROPS)
ROPS protect an occupant in the case of a rollover. For it to be effective, occupants must be restrained with a seatbelt or other method to prevent ejection. ROPS have been incorporated into most large agriculture equipment since 1985.
- Rollover hazard assessments needs to be completed on powered mobile equipment that does not have ROPS if it weighs more than 700 kg (1,543 lbs).
- If rollover is identified as a potential hazard, you can:
- institute safe work procedures to eliminate the possibility of a rollover
- equip it with a rollover protective structure from the manufacturer or one that will provide adequate protection, as stated in writing by a competent person or service provider
Tank trucks, fuel transfer
- In all other industries, the tank truck operator is required to ensure a conductive tank truck is bonded and grounded while fuel is being transferred.
- In agriculture, operators must ensure a conductive tank truck is bonded when:
- fueling powered mobile equipment
- transferring fuel to a stationary storage container that is grounded to reduce the risk of explosion due to static electricity discharge
- Fall protection systems, including harnesses, lanyards and anchor points, are required when workers are working at heights above 3 metres (10 ft) or if an unusual fall hazard exists.
- If storage bin structures are not substantial enough for fall protection equipment, work safe procedures can be used instead.
Hazards technical rules
The following rules come into effect on Dec. 1, 2018.
- Seatbelts and other safety equipment should be used wherever possible. When it’s not, use other reasonably practicable methods.
- Seatbelts must be worn if equipment has a rollover protective structure (ROPS), otherwise ROPS is not effective.
Riding on loads
- Workers can ride on a load on equipment that is not designed for human transport if:
- they are safely positioned
- speed does not exceed 10 km/h
- terrain is suitable
Buildings (stairways, handrails, walkways)
- Detailed requirements for stairways, walkways, handrails, etc. in buildings on a worksite are outlined in the OHS Code.
- Access to and from a work area must be safe and strong enough to support equipment and workers.
- Workers can be made aware of any building limitations, instead of following manufacturer’s specifications or those of a professional engineer.
- Work sites, processes and equipment should be designed and built to minimize exposure to noise to prevent hearing loss. On farms and ranches, this does not apply to alterations, renovations or repairs started before the new rules come into effect on Dec. 1, 2018.
- Workers need to be provided with hearing protection or may limit their time doing tasks where they are exposed to noise.
Scaffolds and temporary work platforms
- In all other industries, scaffolds have coloured tags with information to help workers understand the risks.
- On farms and ranches:
- hazard assessments can be used in place of specific tagging requirements
- assessments must be repeated when conditions changes on the work site
- workers must be involved in the assessment and understand how they’re being kept safe
- Safe scaffold construction practices apply.
- On farms and ranches, employers do not need to provide toilets where access is not reasonable because of the remote location of the work site. If one is avaiable, employers need to make it accessible to workers.
- Employers need to provide workers on a remote work site with sanitary and hygiene supplies.
- In all other industries, sharps cannot be recapped to prevent needle stick injuries.
- On farms and ranches, a person can recap needles that are designed by their manufacturer to be recapped.
Training and safe work policies
The following rules come into effect on Dec. 1, 2018.
Education and training is important to help implement the new OHS rules. More information, including information bulletins and templates, will be available as we get closer to the Dec. 1 implementation date.
- Employers need to must ensure workers are adequately trained to be competent at their job.
- Employers determine the best way to train workers, including:
- formal learning programs
- showing workers how to work safely and supervising them
Visual inspections and equipment maintenance
- In other industries, visual inspections of equipment and the surrounding area according to the manufacturer’s specifications are required before and during operation of powered mobile equipment. Equipment must be inspected by a competent worker for defects and hazardous conditions according to manufacturer's specifications.
- In agriculture, continuous inspections may not be necessary when working in open fields or areas with little to no people. Instead:
- hazard assessments can be completed to determine the appropriate frequency for visual inspections before operating equipment
- powered mobile equipment must be inspected by a competent worker to ensure it is safe to operate
- maintaining equipment to according to manufacturer’s specifications is not required
- employers must still conduct inspections, inform workers of potential hazards and control these hazards before use
These changes are new for farmers and ranchers. OHS officers will initially focus visits to farms and ranches where a complaint is filed or there is a serious incident or fatality.
Longer term, OHS visits will be focused on farms and ranches where there are higher incidences of injuries and incidents and will concentrate on compliance, assistance and promotion of AgSafe Alberta’s resources.
For information on farm and ranch legislation:
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