Sask. seeks feedback on workers’ comp for farms

A report proposing to bring all employees in Saskatchewan under the province’s workers’ compensation system — including ag workers — is up for public feedback.

The provincial government on Monday launched consultations on the recommendations in the final report from the Workers’ Compensation Act committee of review, running through from Monday until March 5.

"The government believes that stakeholder feedback is an important component of determining how to proceed with the recommendations," provincial Labour Relations Minister Don Morgan said in a release. "To this end, the ministry is seeking input from all interested parties, including injured workers, employers, employees and the general public."

First among the report’s 57 recommendations is that the province’s Workers’ Compensation Act "apply to all employees in Saskatchewan with no exclusions."

"If (and we certainly hope that this will not be the case) only one of our recommendations is to be implemented, this first one will have the most positive impact for workers and employers in Saskatchewan," the committee wrote.

Among others on the current list of exclusions and exceptions from Saskatchewan’s workers’ comp system are pig farms, poultry farms, dairy farms, certain types of feedlot and livestock yard operations, grazing co-operatives, livestock brokers, mobile farm feed services, portable seed-cleaning plants, fur farms, show judges, trappers, commercial fishers and certain types of land clearing, brush cutting and stumping work.

As of 2009, the committee said in its report, over 30 per cent of workers in the province don’t have workers’ comp coverage.

Furthermore, the committee noted, specifically calling out the ag sector, safety funding for "non-covered" industries is provided in part through premiums paid to the provincial Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) by employers in covered industries.

"Historical reasons"

Many exclusions from workers’ comp "may have come about for historical reasons that are no longer relevant in the industrial structures of the 21st century," the committee wrote, again calling out agriculture.

"Most agricultural production is now part of the global economy and is undertaken on a large scale very different from the traditional family farm. Workers are doing paid jobs in a sector where serious injuries and even fatalities are, unfortunately, not rare."

According to the occupational health and safety division of the provincial Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety, each year about 14 work-related deaths occur in farming and ranching.

"Less than an eighth of Saskatchewan’s working population live on a farm, but the agricultural sector accounts for over one- third of all work- related fatalities," the committee wrote. "Looking at the severity of injuries, each year over 200 injuries occur in the agricultural sector that are serious enough to require hospitalization."

However, the committee added, when it was asked in hearings "to explain the origins of and reasons behind this long and complicated list of exceptions, we were unable to do so as no comprehensive explanatory documentation existed."

Stakeholders and the public are encouraged to submit "written input" on all recommendations, especially those calling for "substantive changes to the Act" or those with "significant implications for the (WCB), employees or the business community."

The committee of review wrapped up the review process last April 30 and submitted its report to the minister dated Nov. 7.

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