No Right to be Safe: Justifying the Exclusion of Alberta Farm Workers from Health and Safety Legislations

  • Bob Barnetson
Keywords: agriculture, health, safety, policy, Canada


Alberta remains the only Canadian province to exclude agricultural workers from the ambit of its occupational health and safety laws. Consequently, farm workers have no right to know about workplace safety hazards and no right to refuse unsafe work, thereby increasing their risk of a workplace injury. This study uses qualitative content analysis to identify three narratives used by government members of the legislative assembly between 2000 and 2010 to justify the continued exclusion of agricultural workers from basic health and safety rights. These narratives are: (1) education is better than regulation, (2) farms cannot be regulated, and (3) farmers don’t want and can’t afford regulation. Analysis of these narratives reveals them to be largely invalid, raising the question of why government members rely upon these narratives. The electoral rewards associated with maintaining this exclusion may comprise part of the explanation.