On June 18, 2006, Kevan Chandler went to work, as usual, as a farmworker at the local feedmill. He never made it home again that day. While cleaning out a silo, he was buried by falling grain.
Because he was a farmworker, government safety officers didn't investigate, and the employer could not be held accountable for the accident. His wife couldn't get WCB benefits, and his kids were left without a father.
This is because under Alberta law, farmworkers are not covered by the Occupational Health and Safety Act, or any other labour law. They are denied the basic rights the rest of us take for granted.
Judge Calls for Safety Inclusion
In 2008, a fatality inquiry was called to explore the causes of Kevan's death and to examine ways to prevent similar deaths in the future. In January 2009, Judge Peter Barley released his findings.
Judge Barley states that Kevan's death could have been prevented if farmworkers had been included in occupational safety legislation. He recommends changing the law:
"It is recommended that paid employees on farms should be covered by the Occupational Health and Safety Ac, RSA 2000 Ch. O-2, with teh same exemption for family members and other non-paid workers that apply to non-farm employers." (p. 7)
Join the Campaign for Farmworkers
UFCW Canada has launched a campaign to pressure the Alberta government to include farmworkers in safety legislation. UFCW represents farmworkers in B.C., Ontario and Manitoba, and are now extending their campaign for farmworker rights to Alberta.
They have set up a website, and launched a letter writing campaign.
Help farmworkers achieve basic safety protections. Here is what you can do:
- Tell the Alberta government to start taking farm safety seriously by sending a quick e-mail to Premier Ed Stelmach that calls for the immediate implementation of Justice Barley's recommendations.
- Encourage your family members, friends, co-workers and neighbours to help make a difference by joining the End the Harvest of Death campaign.
Together we can make sure that Kevan Chandler's death was not in vain.