In order to raise awareness about workplace rights and responsibilities, the Ministry of Labour, Citizens' Services and Open Government will be releasing a series of information bulletins and factsheets this week as Labour Day approaches. This is the second in the series.
VICTORIA - Government is committed to keeping British Columbia's farm workers safe. In fact:
- British Columbia's employment standards and occupational health and safety regulations for agriculture are comparable with other jurisdictions in Canada and are backed up by some of the highest penalties in the country.
- B.C.'s labour laws and workplace safety standards apply to all workers regardless of their nationality or immigration status.
How the Employments Standards Branch protects farm workers
- The Employment Standards Branch Agriculture Compliance Team visits farms to ensure farm owners, producers and Farm Labour Contractors (FLCs) are complying with provincial employment standards legislation. If employers are found in contravention of the act, mandatory escalating penalties apply.
- During these visits, which take place over the course of the harvesting season, workers are interviewed and given information about Employment Standards. In 2011 alone, Employment Standards representatives spoke directly with approximately 2,900 agricultural workers and performed 74 site visits.
Farm worker safety in B.C.
- WorkSafeBC farm inspection reports have more than doubled in the last decade- from 370 reports in 2000 to 954 reports in 2011.
- The injury rate* in agriculture has dropped from 3.6 in 2002 to a rate of 2.3 in 2011. That's on par with the province's overall injury rate of 2.36.
*number of injuries per 100 person years of employment
Response to 2007 van crash in Abbotsford
- In 2007, the B.C. government created the Inter-Agency Agriculture Compliance Committee to ensure an integrated approach to farm worker safety. Find out more at: http://www.gov.bc.ca/farmworkers/
- In 2008, tougher provisions were enacted under the Employment Standards Act to help ensure farm worker safety. This legislation:
- Prohibits growers from using unlicensed farm labour contractors.
- Allows for the cancellation or suspension of a farm labour contractor's licence if they violate relevant WorkSafeBC and/or motor vehicle laws and regulations.
- Makes farm labour contractors liable for the costs paid by government to provide safe alternative transportation for stranded workers when an unsafe vehicle is taken out of service during roadside inspections.
- There were 17 recommendations directed at government as a result of the coroners' inquest into the 2007 van crash:
- Eleven recommendations are complete.
- Alternative action was taken on three recommendations.
- Work is ongoing on three more.
- A chart outlining these responses can be read at: http://www.gov.bc.ca/farmworkers/attachments/jury_recommendations.pdf
Response to 2008 mushroom farm incident in Langley
- Immediately following the 2008 mushroom farm tragedy, WorkSafeBC inspected every mushroom farm in the province to make sure they were operating safely.
- Since the incident, the number of agricultural inspection reports issued by WorkSafeBC has increased by 58 percent (605 reports in 2008, 954 in 2011).
- Following a coroner's inquest in May 2012, WorkSafeBC and the Farm and Ranch Health and Safety Association (FARSHA) have begun working on implementing the jury's recommendations.
- A chart of responses to the coroner's recommendations is located at: http://www.worksafebc.com/news_room/features/2012/assets/pdf/InquestRecommendations.pdf
- Anyone with questions about their rights or a complaint against their employer under the Employment Standards Act can get help from the Employment Standards Branch. Help is available in person, online or through a toll-free number (1 800 663-3316).
- The Employment Standards Branch website has information about employee rights in English, French, Chinese, Punjabi, Hindi, Filipino, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean and Spanish.
- Since 2007, the Employment Standards Branch has completed more than 70 guest appearances on Punjabi, Mandarin, Cantonese and English-speaking radio and television programs to answer questions about employment standards and employee rights.
- Employment Standards Branch staff conduct education and outreach programs to inform immigrant workers and employers about employment standards. This includes site visits to workplaces, roadside vehicle inspections, education seminars and presentations in schools and to groups of workers and employer associations, networking through community agencies and contact with immigrant settlement groups.
- WorkSafeBC also offers a number of health and safety publications in a wide variety of languages. In addition, its call centre offers translation services in 170 languages.
- WorkSafeBC is using multiple channels to reach members of B.C.'s two largest minority groups - Chinese-Canadian and Indo-Canadian. This includes partnerships with community organizations and regular appearances in the ethnic media.