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New HR Toolkit provides the building blocks for an effective farm safety program

Today’s farmer realizes the importance of formalized safety programs when it comes to keeping their employees safe and their operations running smoothly. But the challenge with standardized safety programs for farms is the unique nature of every operation.

That’s why the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) put together an Agri HR Toolkit specifically for farms. The toolkit gives agricultural operations of all types and sizes the information and resources they need to understand their responsibilities and liabilities, and to build a customized workforce management program.

CAHRC has recently updated the toolkit, and the Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association has purchased a subscription for every one of their current members.

What is an HR toolkit?

That’s a question we asked CAHRC’s Project Manager, Tracy Biernacki-Dusza. Tracy explained that the toolkit covers everything involved in managing a workforce. It isn’t a safety program, but it does include a whole section on health and safety, with lots of detailed information on everything that should be considered when building a program, including steps to get started, links to other templates, and action plans. Some of the elements include:

    • Canadian Occupational Health and Safety legislation
    • WHMIS
    • Provincial legislation
    • Workplace conditions and expectations
    • Policies on drug and alcohol abuse
    • Hazard audits
    • Farm equipment safety
    • Animal safety
    • Bio-security

“It helps the business owner consider every aspect of their workforce management, to protect themselves and their employees. It includes everything from health and safety policies to hiring; from workplace wellness to succession planning – and lots more,” said Tracy.

Why is the toolkit an important resource?

Because agriculture is such a unique industry, the Agri HR Toolkit has been designed to be extremely customizable. “Rather than a checklist, we’ve included the information in a human resources handbook,” Tracy explained. “It runs through all the policies and procedures a farm operator should have in place, and helps them work out how they pertain to their operation.”

As part of their work with ACFA, CAHRC has helped create seven different feedlot role job descriptions, complete with training requirements, and has conducted training sessions on recruitment, selection and hiring.

Good for owners and employees alike

The primary purpose of the toolkit is to help business owners comply with standards and legislation. By helping them make their operations safer for their employees and visitors to their farms, it will also protect them against employment related claims.

You can read more about safety in the agriculture industry in these earlier blog posts:

Feeding the world: why the agri-food industry must be an economic priority

Canada’s agricultural industry has long been in a severe labour crisis. As young people move toward the cities, and rural populations age, our farmers struggle more and more to find the manpower they need to run their operations. Despite this labour crunch, agricultural production in Alberta is worth about $5 billion a year, so finding solutions for the people who produce our food is a top priority.

The Federal Advisory Council on Economic Growth recently recommended to the Federal Government that the agriculture and food sector be named a growth priority. This introduces opportunities for industry and government to come together in partnership to strategically remove growth constraints and leverage untapped potential. The labour shortage will be one of the high-impact issues to be addressed by action teams consisting of various stakeholders.

Why this matters

Canadian farmers will always try to employ Canadians first. But when they have positions that Canadians aren’t applying for, they must have access to alternative sources of labour. Only then can our farmers produce the high-quality food Canadians expect, and have the capability to supply a healthy export market.

Canada has an international reputation for high-quality food and exceptional food safety standards, and prioritizing growth will help secure our place as a global leader in the provision of top-quality, trusted agri-food products to the world.

Changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program

This is not the first ray of light that has been offered to this struggling industry. In December 2016, the Federal Government announced changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program that promise to help alleviate the labour shortage. Some of the changes include:

  • Removal of a rule stating that foreign workers could only work in Canada for four years at a time.
  • Changes to caps and exemptions.
  • A commitment to developing pathways to permanence for foreign workers.

How these changes support the Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food Workforce Action Plan

The Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food Workforce Action Plan is an industry-led ‘roadmap’ to help alleviate the labour shortage. The recommendation to make agri-foods a growth-priority industry supports the plan’s two main recommendations:

  • Increase the supply of labour to meet immediate and future requirements for skilled and unskilled workers.
  • Improve the knowledge and skills of workers to meet immediate and future labour requirements.

These recommendations also closely align with the Economic Advisory Council’s recommendations regarding a ‘FutureSkills Lab’ and represent immediate targets to support the agriculture industry on this front.

To learn more about Canada’s agriculture labour shortage, check out: