The Alberta government is extending the consultation period on new farm safety rules.
Alberta agriculture minister Oneil Carlier said Jan. 15 that farmers, ranchers, local governments and industry groups now have until Feb. 26 to weigh in.
“We had a few individuals and municipalities that were looking for a little bit more time,” Carlier said. “The collaboration with this has been fruitful, and we’re continuing to work with our stakeholders as we all take the time to get this right.”
The new safety rules fall under the Occupational Health and Safety code and would apply to farms and ranches that employ paid workers.
Changes could result in farms being required to modify old equipment, as well as possibly needing safety manuals, first-aid kits and fire extinguishers on hand when accidents happen.
Kent Erickson, chair of AgSafe Alberta, an organization that’s been tasked with developing and delivering farm safety management tools and programs, said he’s glad the government has decided to extend the consultations.
“There just wasn’t enough time for the farming community to get a good analysis of this,” Erickson said. “This additional six weeks give us that opportunity, and we’ll be reaching out to get some feedback from producers.”
Erickson said of the 144 recommendations, 20 to 40 of them still need to be hashed out.
He said the recommendation that farmers be required to upgrade old equipment shouldn’t be needed.
For example, his 1978-built tractor has been slightly modified to be usable. But, according to the recommended changes, he said his tractor wouldn’t be up to standards so he would have to replace it.
A new tractor could cost him from $40,000 to $80,000, he said.
“We obviously want more safety on farms and we want to save lives and injuries, but if regulations are a financial burden and not really going to enhance safety, then we need to address that.”
Other contentious recommendations include the possibility of farmers being required to install seat-belts on equipment, and needing special permits if, for example, they want rollover bars to get into tight-fitting chicken or turkey barns.
That said, Erickson added that there are good recommendations coming out that do enhance safety, like having first-aid kits and fire extinguishers close by.
“Simple things like that save lives and injuries,” he said. “Just having simple conversations about how to safely clean a bin and things like that are good and won’t cost much money.”
Farmers and ranchers interested in weighing in on the safety changes can do so at www.alberta.ca/farm-and-ranch.aspx.