Edmonton - The death of two Edmonton area farm workers is proof that Alberta's workplace safety laws need to be extended to include agricultural workers, says the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL).
"It is simply absurd that investigators from Alberta Occupational Health and Safety were dispatched to investigate the death of these two workers, but had to abandon the investigation and leave the site when they discovered this happened on a farm," says Gil McGowan, president of the AFL, which represents 140,000 workers.
"Today's farms are industrial workplaces just like any other - as this accident involving large equipment and power lines shows," he says.
Alberta remains the only province that maintains 19th century rules where farm workers are excluded from occupational health and safety laws, as well as legislation governing hours of work and overtime, statutory holidays, vacation pay, the right to refuse unsafe work, being informed of work-related dangers and compensation if they are injured on the job. In the nine years the Alberta government has said it is consulting on how to improve safety for agricultural workers, 160 people have died on farm worksites.
"This is clear evidence, if any more were needed, that the government's decision last week to focus on education and training to improve farm and ranch safety is completely inadequate," says McGowan. "It's time the government acted on the recommendations made by Justice Peter Barley in 2008, while investigating another death, that farm workers be included in Alberta's Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA)."
The government, bowing to the powerful agribusiness lobby, has instead set up an industry dominated advisory council to look into enhancing education and training, says McGowan. "This council will be an industry-dominated joke," he says.
Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour @ 780-218-9888 (cell)