Tuesday, October 6, 2020

New study on farm safety views in Alberta

A new study about safety on Alberta farms is now available. “Occupational health and safety on family farms in Alberta” was funded by the now defunct OHS Futures Grant from government. The study comprises 37 interviews with far operators, family members, employees, industry and worker groups and regulators in 2018/19 (so under the NDP’s now mostly defunct Bill 6 rules). At present, the majority of non-family employee son farms are excluded from statutory OHS, employment standards or labour relations rights.

The findings include:
  • There is an awareness that unsafe work is unacceptable among operators,
  • Workers and farm operators have different views about the level of safety on farms.
  • Fatigue is a key risk factor.
  • Power imbalances in the employment relationship appear to negatively affect the safety of non-family employees. This often goes unrecognized by industry and safety professionals.
  • There was general agreement that some OHS and injury-insurance requirements are necessary; employers were less supportive of rules hours of work despite the safety risk of fatigue.
Overall, this research jives with the broader body of research on farm safety. Of particular note is the impact that pressure (time, finances) have on the decision about working safely and the normalization of unsafe work (by farm operators) as just a part of the job.

This research also highlights how workers and employers see safety differently, even though they may share some of the same risks in the workplace. The impact of a lack of childcare options on the safety of children on the farm was also insightful.

Of interest on the insurance side was the devaluing of the no fault nature of WCB (i.e., the tort bar) because few operators thought they would be sued over an injury. Overall, the study highlighted that there was significantly more nuance to operator views about farm worker rights and regulations than one might thing from the reaction to Bill 6 back in 2015/16.

-- Bob Barnetson

No comments: