© Submitted photo
The Workers Compensation Board of P.E.I. is taking steps to provide compensation coverage to workers on Island farms.
"As a long-time farmer, I understand the concerns and reservations that the industry might have about mandatory coverage," said Stuart Affleck, chair of the Workers Compensation Board.
"I was pleased to be part of the panel discussions and consultation with the farming industry. It was important to meet with various boards, employers and workers and to hear their thoughts; clarify some misperceptions; and to receive valuable feedback from the farming sector on how we could help them through this transition."
In 2012, a legislative review advisory committee was appointed to review the Workers Compensation Act.
One recommendations from the report advised the WCB and government to consult with the farming industry to discuss their inclusion under the workers compensation system. This would ensure that the farming industry would have similar protection as other workers in the province.
As part of the consultation process a five-person panel including representatives from the WCB and the agricultural sector held taks across the province.
"Previously, farming employers on Prince Edward Island were not required to have workers compensation coverage; it was available on a voluntary basis," said Luanne Gallant, WCB's acting CEO.
"This meant that farm workers were not afforded the same protection as workers in other Island industries."
Farm workers are at high risk for workplace injuries, the WCB stated in a news release.
While good data on agricultural injuries is difficult to find, the board notes Canada's agricultural industry has among the highest fatality rates of any Canadian occupation.
In the absence of mandatory coverage, costs related to workplace injuries are shifted from the employers onto farm workers and their families, who must cope with wage loss and medical expenses. The impact of excluding farm employers from workers compensation can be costly for both the farm worker and the farm employer, the board said.