Protect farm workers

Re: "Voluntary safety rules for farms ineffective, experts say," Sept. 18.

It is hard to describe how disheartening, how damaging, how dreadful it must be for farm workers and their families to read the harsh words spoken recently by Wildrose MLA Jeff Wilson.

Imagine you are a child who has lost a parent in a farm accident, or a parent who has lost a child. Then imagine being told that applying the same health and safety laws to farm work sites that apply to all other work sites in the province is a "burden" or too "complicated" for farm operations.

From the biggest cities to the smallest hamlets, Albertans know that we must do all we can to make our workplaces safe. It is especially important on farms, where heavy industrial equipment mixes with vulnerable workers, often migrants and sometimes children.

Simple attempts to save lives cannot be callously dismissed as complicated or brushed off as burden-some.

The evidence from experts is perfectly clear.

Education alone will not save lives on our farms.

Occupational health and safety regulations must be applied.

These regulations aren't too complicated or too much of a burden for any other employers.

Are those who refuse to implement these rules really saying that Alberta farm operations are so backward that they can't do what other employers do, or what farms in other provinces do?

Alberta can and must do better. It's time to move past this dangerous 19th-century approach to farming.

Gil McGowan
Gil McGowan is president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.

The Calgary Herald, Thursday Sept 20 2012

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