Bill 6 Article in the Mountain View Gazette

Bill 6 Article in the Mountain View Gazette

Mountain View Gazette has published an article written by our articling student, Heather Koltusky, which outlines the new requirements introduced by Bill 6. You can read the full article on their website.

 

We have provided some additional information if you still have questions about the changes.

 

In which circumstances would my common law partner not be considered a family member?

“Adult interdependent partner” are included in the definition of a family member in Bill 6. There are situations where a common-law partner would not be considered an adult interdependent partner. Specifically, if you and your partner have not lived together for three years, do not have a child together, or have not signed an adult interdependent partnership agreement, you may not be considered family members under Bill 6. Ultimately, you should seek legal advice to determine how Bill 6 applies to your family.

 

What is the full list of industries that now need WCB coverage for non-family members?

The following industries now require WCB coverage:

 

  • provision of agrology and agronomy services;
  • operation of an apiary;
  • provision of artificial breeding services;
  • breeding of animals, birds, fish or reptiles;
  • collection of urine from pregnant mares;
  • operation of a dude ranch;
  • carrying on business as a commercial egg producer;
  • carrying on the business of farming;
  • carrying on the business of farming contracting, including haying and threshing;
  • operation of a commercial feed lot;
  • provision of fertilizer spreading services;
  • carrying on business as a commercial fruit grower;
  • operation of a game farm;
  • carrying on the business of horse exercising, training or racing;
  • carrying on business as a commercial poultry producer;
  • carrying on business as a commercial rabbit producer;
  • ranching;
  • operation of a riding academy or horse stable; and
  • carrying on business as a commercial vegetable grower.

 

How does WCB work?

The basis of the Workers’ Compensation program is as follows: an employee who is injured on the job must submit their claim for damages to the Worker’s Compensation Board, instead of suing their employer or co-workers. The Board reviews the claim and determines the compensation owed to the employee. Employers are required to pay premiums for the coverage. Rates vary by industry and the individual company’s past claim history. Employers are responsible for updating their accounts within 15 days after they hire a new employee. Employers must also report accidents within 72 hours of occurrence. As an employer, you can also be liable for the unpaid premiums of contractors, sub-contractors or sole proprietors if there is an accident on your work site. For this reason, it is a good practice to require a clearance certificate from these people before they do work on your property.

 

The WCB has prepared a handbook for employers, and a handout for new account holders.

 

What happens if there is an accident before I get my WCB account set up?

As of January 1, 2016 farms with non-family, wage earning employees, are required to have Workers’ Compensation coverage.   However, the Alberta Government has announced an administrative grace period to April 30, 2016. It is worth noting the administrative grace period does not appear in the legislation at all. As such, coverage should be in place for non-family, wage earning employees as of January 1, 2016, regardless of whether their employer has set up the account yet. Likewise, your premium for this time period should be the same whether you already have you account set up or you do not set it up until April 30, 2016.

 

Occupational Health and Safety Legislation (“OH&S”) states that farm employers have an obligation to “ensure, as far as reasonably practical, the safety of workers on their worksite.”  What does this mean for me?

Bill 6 requires compliance with OH&S Legislation.   The Alberta Government has announced that it will introduce industry-specific regulations for farms and ranches. Until these industry specific regulations are enacted, farming and ranching employers must use their best judgment to ensure the safety of workers on their worksite. Employers should strive to meet the requirement despite the lack of industry-specific guidance as they may be found guilty of an offence for failing to do so. In determining what is reasonable for you, ask yourself: what would other employers in the same industry do?

 

The existing Occupational Health and Safety Regulation does provide farmers and ranchers some guidance. This Regulation states that employers must ensure all equipment is properly maintained, will function safely, is strong enough to preform its intended function and is free from obvious defects. It also requires employers to train employees in the safe operation of any equipment. If a task is potentially dangerous, it must be done or supervised by a worker who is competent to do that job.

 

What happens if an accident occurs?

A person who contravenes the OH&S Legislation may be subject to a penalty of up to $10,000 or charged with an offence that carries a fine of up to $1,000,000, or up to a year in jail, or both. To avoid sanction the onus is on you to prove that you have done your “due diligence” to prevent the accident. Due diligence means that you have done what is reasonably practical to prevent this type of incident. In determining whether you have been diligent, a court will ask whether the accident was foreseeable, preventable, within your control, and if reasonable alternatives existed. This Government handout explains due diligence in more detail.

 

Ensuring you have a written record of your safety plan and actions makes defending an OH&S investigation easier. Among the items that should be included in your written records are:

  1. a) Hazard assessments that have been conducted on your farm or ranch;
  2. b) Near miss and incident reports (including steps taken on account);
  3. c) Equipment inspection and maintenance logs;
  4. d) Training procedures and training that has been provided;
  5. e) Safety meeting minutes;
  6. f) Any other safety documentation that relates to your farm or ranch.

 

Ultimately, maintaining written records does not guarantee you will not be sanctioned under OH&S Legislation, but it is the first step in establishing that you are looking out for the safety of your workers.

 

If you are looking for some resources you can use to help you address these safety concerns, consider looking at the safety requirements in other provinces. While their specific requirements do not apply to you, there is a reasonable chance our requirements will end up being similar when the regulations introduced and become the law. Both Saskatchewan and Manitoba have guidelines and bulletins here & here.

 

I thought family members were exempt from OH&S requirements.

Farms and ranches employing only family members are exempt from the OH&S rules.

 

If a farm or ranch has family and non-family workers, then the family workers are exempt from the worker-related OH&S obligations except for the requirement to:

  • (a)    take reasonable care to protect the health and safety of the worker and of other workers present while the worker is working, and
  • (b)    co‑operate with the worker’s employer for the purposes of protecting the health and safety of
  •      (i)    the worker,
  •      (ii)    other workers engaged in the work of the employer, and
  •      (iii)    other workers not engaged in the work of that employer but present at the work site at which that work is being carried out.

 

At this point, without industry-specific regulations in place, it is difficult to determine what this means in practical terms. This is a broad requirement, and there are few cases from other industries where workers have been prosecuted for violating this requirement. However, it is clear that as long as you have any non-family workers on your farm, everyone working on your farm has some degree of obligation for OS&H, family member or not.

 

What will be in the industry-specific regulations mentioned in your article?

We do not know what will be in the regulations until they are released to the public. Once the regulations are released, we will review them and update this section with more information. If you would like up-to-date information about future changes, sign up for our Bill 6 mailing list here or by calling 403-556-8955.

 

The Government is in the process of setting up six consultation groups to create the regulations that will flesh out the details of the changes. You can submit your written suggestions through their website.

 

Where can I read the “Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act” for myself?

Bill 6 is a short piece of legislation that amends other legislation and regulations. The text of Bill 6 is available here.

 

To get a full understanding of the changes, you should refer to the laws and regulations it amends, including:

 

If you have additional questions or comments, or if you would like to receive future updates about Bill 6, please email us at contact@martinsonharder.com or call us at 403-556-8955. We are happy to post responses to general questions on our website, but for specific questions about how the new rules apply to the operation of your farm or ranch, please schedule an appointment with us to discuss your question in more detail. The content on our website is provided for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice. All links will take you to an external site and Martinson & Harder is not responsible for the content of those pages.

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