Alberta premier Rachael Notley’s government
stirred up a hornet’s nest last fall when it introduced
Bill 6, making Workman’s Compensation coverage
mandatory on the province’s farms and ranches.
There was widespread resistance from the
agriculture community that resulted in several
amendments to the legislation that came into eect
on January 1. Until then, Alberta was the only
province that exempted agricultural workers from
compensation coverage. When it comes right down
to it, you have to wonder what took them so long.
Farming and ranching are dangerous work – work
that often involves workers not found in any other
employment category. What other eld of
endeavour generates workplace fatality statistics for
children under 15 and adults over 80?
Typical Canadian farms and ranches are family
enterprises. In most cases, the family lives in the
workplace. Being home means being at work and
much of that work cannot be accomplished in eight
scheduled hours from Monday to Friday. The
workload often demands long hours every day for
weeks on end, leaving workers tired and distracted.
Couple this with a workplace that is liable to be any
combination of loud, dusty, slippery, sharp,
poisonous, hot, cold, mean, scared, heavy or hungry,
and you have a recipe for trouble.
The farm population as a whole is steadily ageing
and as it does, the attendant physical human
decline will make farming and ranching increasingly
dangerous. Statistics from Canadian Agricultural
Injury Reporting (CAIR) paint a worrying picture.
From 1990 to 2012, there were 2,324 fatalities on
Canadian farms and ranches. 272 were children
under 15 years of age, 341 were 70 to 79 years of
age and 163 were over the age of 80.
Complacency born of years doing familiar and
repetitive tasks also complicates matters. The simple
truth is farm and ranch workers, kids, adults and
elderly, work in a dangerous, complicated and
unforgiving environment where a simple moment of
inattention can spell disaster.
Few of us who have been at this any length of
time will struggle to recall our own close calls, or
worse. Sadly, most of us will know others injured or
killed accidentally. While some jobs are inherently
more dangerous than others, all workers deserve
safe working conditions. Period. WorkSafeBC
regulations may seem onerous but they are
designed to ensure job safety. There is no rational
argument against that aim. As a construction site
compensation board inspector responded many
years ago to my observation that the regulations
seemed complicated and onerous: “Yes, they are;
but the sad reality is every word of them has been
written with someone’s blood and grief.”
Safety is no accident (no pun intended).
Compensation board regulations might make your
farm or ranch a less dangerous place to work but
only leadership and commitment from within can
make it truly safe. Every farm or ranch needs
someone to lead by example and make safety the
priority for every family member and employee.
At the very least, everyone should reect on and
assess their own situation and concerns,
communicate them to those they work with and
formulate a basic safety plan. The resources to go
forward from there are available from AgSafe BC
[www.agsafebc.ca]. In addition to on-line resources,
AgSafe has regional safety consultants covering the
entire province. AgSafe also oers a Certicate of
Recognition (COR) for agricultural employers who
implement an eective Occupational Health and
Safety plan which could lead to a 10% reduction in
How much will safety cost? Awareness, basic
education and changes in attitude and behaviours
might be achievable at little or no cost at all. Seat
belts, replacements for missing guards, a safer
handling chute, or occupational rst aid training will
all cost something but compare those costs to the
value of the health, safety and life of those who live
and work on your farm and ranch.
While writing this, I have been remembering
three good friends, all experienced, involved in
machinery accidents. One died in a tractor roll-over,
one lost an entire arm in an implement drive shaft,
and one was pinned under a tractor and survived 25
chest fractures. A formal safety plan might not have
prevented any of their accidents but it could have.
And that’s reason enough for everyone to have one.
Summer is here and fall’s not far o. Statistically
they are the most dangerous seasons for ranchers
and farmers. Stay safe out there.
Editor & Publisher Peter Wilding
Phone: 604/871-0001 • Fax: 604/871-0003
E-mail: email@example.com • Web: countrylifeinbc.com
Associate Editor David Schmidt
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Safety doesn’t take a holiday on the farm
The Back 40
Country Life in BC • August 20164
If you build it, they will come.
That famous line from “Field of
Dreams” seems so appropriate as
the BC Cattlemen’s Association
ponders whether building a new
beef processing plant in Prince
George is a good idea or not.
In the movie, Kevin Costner
plays a farmer who hears a
mysterious voice telling him that if
he builds a baseball diamond in
his cornfield, the great baseball
players of old will come to utilize
It appears the BCCA has heard
the same mysterious voice in the
night, telling them that if a plant is
built in Prince George, the BC
cattle industry will be transformed.
If that voice is to be believed,
the BC feedlot industry would
expand dramatically in northern
BC giving BC cattlemen a ready
market. The plant would foster
mid-scale production of grass-fed
and/or hormone-free beef or any
other type of specialty beef
consumer whims may demand in
future. The plant might even
attract cattle from northern
Alberta ranchers, who could find it
more economical to ship their
animals west to Prince George
than south to High River.
The BCCA also has a Kevin,
(Kevin Boon) to lead their
investigation and now the
government has given them the
money to find out whether that is
feasible or if they are, as many
believe, simply dreaming in
History is not on their side.
Many have tried and failed. The
Blue Mountain packing plant in
Salmon Arm is the most obvious
example. Twice, investors poured
millions into that plant only to see
it fail miserably.
Will this be any different?
Our Kevin thinks so and we
hope he’s right. The BC cattle
industry could certainly use a shot
in the arm to turn around an ever-
To them we say: dare to dream!
Dare to dream