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Safety organization hires first executive

Part of Jody Wacowich’s role at AgSafe Alberta will be to ease concerns some may have over the incoming rule changes

Jody Wacowich will soon be at the helm of Alberta’s new farm safety organization, spending much of her time easing concerns among producers who might still be at odds with incoming rule changes.

Wacowich, who will be AgSafe Alberta’s new executive director starting in August, acknowledges that getting everyone comfortable with the new rules will be challenging, but said the key to getting people on board will be persistence, good communication and showing that the rules aren’t hard to implement.

“As a 4-H leader, I learned to do by doing, and allowing people to try it and understand it so they know it’s not as bad as they thought it would be, and that it can benefit their farm,” said Wacowich, who grew up on a cow-calf operation near Redwater, Alta.

AgSafe Alberta, which held its first annual general meeting in late June, was set up to help farmers get up to speed on the province’s new farm safety rules.

The regulations apply to farms and ranches with paid employees and are scheduled to take effect Dec. 1. Several rules that had caused concerns in farming circles have been publicly released. For instance, farmers will be able to use or sell old equipment if it’s not up to the latest manufacturer code, and won’t need to wear a seatbelt if they are driving slow or taking other safety precautions.

As well, the rules state that workers can be raised and lowered in a loader bucket in the rare case that machines can’t be used for that purpose. It also said fall protection devices may not be practical, though rollover assessments must be completed for equipment weighing over 700 kilograms.

The province pushed ahead with the rules in an effort to strike a balance between keeping farm workers safe while ensuring operators can abide by them.

“The overarching goal is creating a safety culture on farms in Alberta, and helping producers in making that happen on their farms,” Wacowich said.

Before moving to AgSafe, Wacowich worked with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA), helping people get comfortable with new rules that required them to adopt new practices when signing service contracts.

She said much of that work with the AMTA, where she got people to change their practices for the better, can be applied to her new role.

AgSafe is in the process of developing a plan to determine what services to offer to help farms and ranches adjust. It’s currently running a pilot project that involves consultants going to farms and tailoring safety plans for each.

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