What the other provinces are doing about farm worker safety

Alberta’s Bill 6 plans to eliminate the farm exemptions on the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Workers Compensation, Labour Relations and Employment  Standards.

Legislation in the other western provinces varies when it comes to coverage and exemptions for farmers and farm workers. Below is a snapshot of what the proposed changes in Alberta look like in the other provinces.

Occupational Health and Safety

British Columbia: Every workplace that employs workers must have a health and safety program, including farms.

However, only employers that have twenty or more employees and have a workplace with a moderate to high risk of injury must develop and maintain an occupational health and safety program. An OHS program in BC must include the employer’s aims and responsibilities with respect to OHS, regular inspection schedules, written directions for employees, maintenance of statistics and records, and a regular review of OHS standards and their implementation.

The regulations include a number of conditions specific to agriculture, including barriers on manure pits, cold storage, animal handling and use of hay balers. There are no exemptions for family farms or differentiations between large and small farming operations.

All WP Bill 6 coverage here.

Saskatchewan: Regulations apply to all workplaces, including farms. The act places responsibility for health and safety on everyone who works at the workplace, including owners, workers, self-employed people, contractors and suppliers.

The level of responsibility for each of these is based on authority and control. An employer has the most responsibility to ensure health and safety standards are met.

Workers are given three basic health and safety rights.:

  • They have the right to know about the hazards of their job and how to deal with those hazards so they will not cause injury or harm.
  • They have the right to participate in health and safety education in the workplace.
  • They have the right to refuse work that they believe is unusually dangerous to themselves or others in the workplace.

A self-employed person, such as a farmer, who does not employ others, has the same responsibility under the act as both an employer and worker combined.

Manitoba: The act governs the relationship between employers and employees with regard to workplace safety and applies to all workplaces, including farms.

Every employer must ensure the safety, health and welfare of all their workers. The act gives direction on how farmers should protect those who work on a farm as well as how workers are required to protect themselves and others.

Workers Compensation

British Columbia: The act applies to all employers and workers who are engaged in paid work, although it does allow for some exemptions.


Exemptions are not based on industry (there is no exemption for agriculture), but rather duration of employment and if the employment is taking place at a private residence.

Exemptions are if a person works an average of less than eight hours a week and a person is employed for a specific job for a temporary period of less than 24 hours.

All paid workers, and the employers of those workers on all commercial farming operations, regardless of size, are included under WCB legislation. Unpaid workers, such as children and family members performing chores or assisting in seasonal activities, are not included under the legislation.

Saskatchewan: Like Alberta, the WCB manages a compensation system for workplace injuries on behalf of workers and employers. There are exemptions for certain areas, including dairy, demonstrating and exhibiting, feedlots, grazing co-ops, land clearing, fur farms, livestock brokers, mobile farm feed services or portable seed cleaning plants, pig farms, poultry farms, trapping and voluntary workers.

Manitoba: The act applies to all employers and workers in all industries. It does exempt farmers and family members of farmers from WCB regulations. A farm can be owned by a farmer or can be a family farm corporation. Family members can be a spouse or common-law partner, child, parent, sibling and other relative and a person who the farmer considers to be a close relative, whether or not they are related by blood, adoption, marriage or a common-law relationship.

The farming exemption is liberal and far-reaching and exempts close friends from coverage. This allows family members and their neighbours to work together.

Farmers can voluntarily apply for coverage for themselves and their family members.

Labour Standards

British Columbia: A farm worker is anyone employed in farming, ranching, orchards and agricultural operations who grows or raises crops or livestock, clears land, operates farm machinery or other equipment, sells any products from a farm or washes, cleans, sorts, grades or packs a product from a harvest.

Farm workers are covered by most sections of the act except minimum wage, paid wages, deduction of wages and statutory holidays. Farm workers are not entitled to overtime, but a farm work must not work excessive hours detrimental to their health.

Saskatchewan: The legislation outlines the relationship between employer and employee, including application of minimum wages, holidays and maternity leave.

The act does not apply to employees in farming, ranching or market gardening, but it does apply to those in egg hatcheries, greenhouses, nurseries, bush clearing, feedlots, confined feeding operations and commercial hog operations.

Manitoba: Parts of the employment standards code covers farm workers, while others do not. There are different exemptions for paid farm workers with no relationship to the family that owns or operates the farm and for family members being paid to work on the farm.


Paid, non-family members are not regulated by the standard hours of work requirements, overtime, general holiday and wages for reporting to work requirements.

Non-family workers are regulated by minimum wage requirements, annual vacation and vacation allowance requirements, weekly day of rest requirements, work break requirements, unpaid leave requirements, termination of employment requirements and employment of children requirements.

Paid family members are subject to only one code, which requires that employers may not discriminated between male and female employees by paying one gender more than the other for the same work.

The requirements that are applicable to paid non-family workers are not applicable to paid family workers.

Collective Bargaining

Eight provinces in Canada allow farm workers to unionize and seek collective bargaining, including British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec. In Ontario, farm workers can associate but not collectively bargain.

Alberta’s previous exclusion for farm workers from the Labour Relations Code is considered to interfere with the Canadian Charter’s rights to associate. Several Supreme Court rulings favour expanding rights to include farm workers.

Children and Farm Work

Alberta: Prior to Bill 6, restrictions on child employment do not apply to most farm and ranch employees. Children younger than 16 must attend school during normal school hours, unless they have a special permit.

British Columbia: Workers must be 15 years old or hold a permit from the employment standards branch to work in any sector, including farm work.

Saskatchewan: Youth workers must be 16 years old to operate powered mobile equipment on a worksite or to work in areas where they may be exposed to dangerous chemicals or biological substances.

There is an exception for family farms so that the immediate family members of the farm owner are able to work on farms with no restrictions to work hours other than workers younger than 16 cannot work during school hours without the permission of the school principal.

Manitoba: Most restrictions on child employment do not apply in the agricultural sector. However, children younger than 16 cannot work during school hours without a permit. Children younger than 15 may not get such a permit. However, children who are family members of farmers are exempt from this section of the code.

SOURCE: Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties’ Environmental Scan of Farm Safety Legislation.


  • Harold

    What is missing in this article is the reactions of all the land owners in each province regarding these legislations. That would be a large undertaking but the information would be more valuable than listing the laws. I don’t assume that because laws are in place that they must be equitable. Nonetheless, I believe Alberta has its own unique system and therefore the dialogue should remain here among our community members. It seems to me that if we need to look elsewhere, then that doesn’t speak highly of the talent within this Province. Its too bad that Notley doesn’t think highly enough of the Alberta’s farming community to have a meaningful dialog and to do just that. We all know that she swears her allegiance to the office of the Queen, and not us, so therefore we should be very cautious of any Bill. Admiral of Alberta. Kinda fits.

  • Hoopsopinion

    Denying safety to farm workers is the characteristic of an industry living in the past and ignoring the realities of the present.

    • Joe

      I am surprised how people outside the farming community feel the need to dictate how things within the farming community should be done without consulting the actual people involved. No one is asking to deny safety to farm workers. The farming community is simply asking to be involved and have input in the process. Its comments like the one above that are stereotyping the farming community into something its not.

      • Harold

        I agree with you Joe, and that was the basis of my comment. I also agree to the statements of the others as true, but not to the extent of Government interference. What has become rampant in this era, is the need of people to take their personal responsibility and give it to the government. That’s likened to getting daddy to fix it. Didn’t we leave that nest? Nothing stops a worker from walking away from a Job other than fear. Nothing stops a person from negotiating with an employer other than fear. Are we all so fear based that we cannot do the right thing anymore? If all would take on the personal responsibility to stand on your own two feet; then issues of rest, and wages, would become self tailored ; and the employer would have to think long and hard on solutions. To invite Government into your contract affairs, is likened to a couple entering into divorce court. (giving each ones responsibility to government) One gets the house (wife/worker) while the other is called “dead beat”. (farmer/employer) A cookie cutter resolution is binding; and meaningful negotiation is out of its scope. (one size fits all) If the dead beat (male or female) can no longer pay the bills, then there is bankruptcy. So here we are; paid lots of fees, but no jobs and everyone is back to where you started. Consider the legislation that is already in place. Are you feeling like the wife or are you the dead beat? Under Notley, are we (males and females) the wife, or are we the dead beat? In the past as in the present, the only ones that can deny themselves of safely is the worker themselves. They can walk off their job if necessary. That’s taking personal responsibility. What then? They get fired? Then how will the farmer manage without staff when all who will be hired are of the same mind? What seems to be characteristic these days is the many who want to give their own responsibilities and souls (perception of truth) to a piece of paper called Government. Government is not the same as hired help in which you receive wealth for your investment. They consume money that could be paid to workers. In the end its your choice but not mine. In closing; the opinion expressed was not an attempt to insult, disarm or demean any thriving person, or their gender, title,or circumstance.

        • Bric

          On are farm we will probably be letting go of at least 3 workers to cover the cost of bill 6. There just isnt enough profit in farming.

      • Unconventional_Wisdom

        I am not sure why the agriculture industry starts with the assumption that there won’t be any dialogue or consultation in making regulations and codes that are specific to the industry. The practice in every jurisdiction has been to consult with the industry in determiining the hazards that need to be addressed, coming up with appropriate standards in regard to the degree of risk and control measures, and developing education programs to support safe practices. The fears must lie in pre-existing bias rather than experience.

        • Jeff Winter

          It wasn’t an assumption, because there was no dialogue or consultation with the workers in the industry.

          • Unconventional_Wisdom

            You seem unaware that farmworkers have been seeking coverage for the past 35 years, and the Cons admitted they were consulting regarding doing this. I know the facts may be inconvenient to your rigid ideology. By the way, BC had record agricultural sales last year, almost double the volumes than at the time the same changes were introduced 20 years ago.

          • TJTIPS

            If consultation was done… Why is the present AB gov’t needing to go back AFTER the bill has been made law. By their own admission, miscommunation on information available to farmers, ranchers, and Joe taxpayer has been behind the apparent uproar.

          • 360_Viewer

            @TJTIPS, the government still needs to consult with stakeholders on the content of the regulations and safety codes. And since the “uproar” was a largely partisan exercise by people who will fault anything the NDP would do, I doubt any communication strategy would have made a difference.

          • Ruth Maria Braun

            That’s not true. The ‘uproar ‘ would have happened under any government who proposed to pass a bill without consulting the people of the industry it affected.

          • 360_Viewer

            I might believe that if I didn’t check the background of the people who were participating in the attack. But when many of them had nothing to do with the agriculture industry and had a public history of Wildrose or Conservative advocacy and anti-NDP criticism on unrelated issues, you can see that the “lack of consultation” is just a smokescreen for another agenda. Apart from that, a great deal of legislation is adopted without prior consultation with affected parties. Just look at Harper’s record.

          • Dar

            Strange I saw an on line site for questions, ideas and even asking for consultation volunteers – through the NDP government ?

  • Gordy Hall

    Farn workers in sask and Alberta have to work 100+ hours a week!!! Get no overtime pay no bonus and are so over worked and tired that it becomes extremely dangerous to operate anything especially a loaded semi!! There’s a reason commercial drivers have to show at least an 8 hour rest period between shifts why does this not apply to farm workers?? Are we some sort of superhumans that can work forever without sleep?? I am a farm worker and have come close to a horrible death a couple of times due to this exact reason we all have the right to be safe and come home to our families at night!!!!

    • Erzsi Runn

      then sir you need to find a better farmer towork for. that is one complaint i have heard. are there any others?

  • Ida Scott-Rousell

    Notley should be talking with Alberta’s farmers not talk to other provinces farmer they have no clue what Alberta needs. Neither does Notley she should go and spend some time on a farm and see exactly how they are run before she pass judgment on them. I was raised on a farm, I had course on the farm, guess what it did not kill me. It taught me to respect all things (humans & animals), it taught me how to work hard and do a good job, it taught me how the economy works, etc. There is not harm to having chorus it give a child self worth and they become proud of what they accomplished. Children now days have no respect, no self worth, they think money grows on threes. The thing is the government has already screwed up family units by putting their nose were it does not belong now they are trying to screw over everyone else (farmers, the oil sands, agriculture, construction etc.) why can’t the government leave well enough alone. You live was not to as complacent as it is today. The government is board and want to put their noes in everything, if they are that board maybe they should find out where all our money went in one month since Trudeau has been in power.

    • Dar

      Sounds like a right wing comment more then main issue.. I grew up on a farm to and I will never deny the accidents and the dangers or the arms torn off in augers….Notley had an on line site inviting farmers to make contributions and be a part of the consulting group instead they decided to protest? Really all the farmers I know are so against the NDP government I thinks this is just a convenient situation plus a chance to get the PC’s back which excluding Lougheed was a decades of economic disaster. Personally I think Notley would be crapped on by rural Albertans even if she was capable of controlling the world price of oil!

  • ed

    They might as well just put a check off per tonne or whatever to create the worlers comp fund. Farmer never balk at a reduced income, like watered down Agristability triggers or reduced prices due to loss of CWB etc., etc. As long as they don’t have to pay. Then they are basically all pre-registered for free. Problem solved. Limiting work to 8 hours for employees at an industry appropriate wage level given the responsibility and job risk factors is a must. Time and a half for anything over 8 hours a day and double time with a 14 hour max. after that is a must as well. Farmers and farm groups will never fight collectively for better, if it is easier to down load it onto their employees while their sons and daughters are going in for doctors and lawyers and such.

  • rudy47

    They all seem to think everyone wants to work on farms,not.It takes a special breed to want to farm or ranch,those that can’t take the heat should just leave as they are of no use as an employee.