About the Study

Background and Rationale

In 2016, the Alberta government passed the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act, extending Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) insurance coverage and Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) legislation to Alberta farms and ranches. Previously, employees on Alberta farms and ranches had been exempt from basic safety and injury compensation protections. Lawmakers proposed the legislation after several child fatalities on Alberta farms. In the face of opposition from the farm sector, OHS and WCB requirements were modified to exempt non-wage family members from its scope. While the Act extended legislation to farm employees, workplace health and safety laws do not cover family members who work on farms. The government extensively consulted with stakeholders in developing the Act as well as sector-specific standards, but there is a lack of systematic analysis of these changes, either from the perspective of operators or workers. In 2019, new legislation (the Alberta Farm Freedom and Safety Act) created a new ‘small farm’ exemption from mandatory workers compensation. Other changes ‘lightened’ OHS and Employment Standards requirements for farms.

Research Questions

This research asks:

How do those who operate, manage, work on, and regulate family farms understand occupational health and safety (OHS) risks and harms in agriculture?
How do operators, family members, and workers understand the role and scope of OHS legislation and regulation in agriculture?
What are the options for injury/illness prevention policy for family farms?
What meanings are attached to family, farming and work, and how do these meanings shape OHS laws and decision-making?

Methods, Framework, Theory

We are using a qualitative health research approach to analyze how workers, family members, operators, industry representatives, and regulators understand workplace risks in agriculture, how they think policy can prevent injury/illness, and what their experiences have been with new OHS requirements. An interpretive policy approach to the research explores the meanings of policy for various groups.

Because of recent changes to OHS legislation in Alberta, this study focuses on Alberta. However, the study has broader relevance as OHS legislation in other Canadian provinces, and international jurisdictions such as the US, is not unlike Alberta’s.

There are three key research activities for the study.

Interviews with operators, family members, employees, industry representatives, worker representatives, safety organizations, and OHS regulators.
Inter-jurisdictional policy scan (document based research). The purpose of the scan is to identify OHS coverage and exclusions as they relate to family farms, by looking across Canada and to jurisdictions outside Canada.
Document based analysis to identify and analyze legislation and input from constituents and stakeholders.

Research Ethics

The study was reviewed and approved by the University of Waterloo’s Office of Research Ethics and the University of Alberta’s Research Ethics Board. Practices of informed consent and participant confidentiality are followed closely.

For participants

If you’re interested in participating in the study, please contact us for more information.

Funding and Affiliations

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