The Workers Compensation Act (WCA) of Alberta was passed in 1918, and provided injured workers benefits from an employer-funded insurance pool. At that time, farming and ranching were the major economic engines of the province, however as industrialization spread, accidents, particularly those involving factory machinery, electricity, and other innovations, caused the provincial governments to create an insurance system to handle such accidents. No longer could it be said in a court that the worker had “assumed the risk” of grievous injury or death of a given occupation.
Most farming operations were family-run at the time, and were exempted from being mandatorily covered by the Workers Compensation Board of Alberta. Coverage for paid agricultural workers under the WCB became optional, and accidental injury or death in such work remained an issue to be resolved by private lawsuits. As well, it was determined that the government could not inspect working conditions.
New Legislation for Farm Owners in Effect
As of January 1, 2016 that has all changed. The province’s WCA was amended in December 2015 to include the paid workers of farms, ranches, and other employers in the agricultural sector. These changes in the law bring Alberta in line with the workers compensation coverage of all other provinces.
What this means for commercially oriented agricultural producers is that your paid employees have been covered by the WCB if they weren’t already. If you have not yet registered for coverage, you must establish a WCB account by April 30, 2016.
As of now, it appears three clear class exemptions to mandatory WCB coverage of the agricultural sector remain:
- Family-owned operations
- Family members working on the farm
- Volunteer labourers
The move to compulsory coverage of paid agricultural workers should mean a review of the commercial coverage of your operation.
Review Your Coverage
That is where Bow Valley Insurance comes in. Changes in circumstances revolving around industrial accident liability are an ideal trigger to perform a top to bottom review of your farm insurance policies. As we independently represent the products of as many as several nationally recognised companies offering commercial insurance policies, a review could wind up saving you premium dollars.
If you had not been opting in for WCB coverage for your paid employees before, you now have no choice. This change has shifted the risk of a lawsuit by an injured employee away from your commercial policy, or umbrella liability policy, and into the world of administrative law, where absent extraordinary circumstances, workplace liability lawsuits cannot arise.
Contact Bow Valley Insurance
Bow Valley Insurance has been serving clients for nearly four decades. Our experienced staff can shop the insurance rates for you for your commercial property, liability, and vehicle policies.