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SPRING 2021 ❁ BC HOLSTEIN NEWS 27 For Everybody's Benefit
  Contractor Liability: Who’s
Chad Stewart,
Regional Safety Consultant for the North Okanagan, AgSafe
on Your Site?
is legally required to pay the contractors WorkSafeBC premiums for the time spent ontheproducer’ssite.Producersmaynot even be aware of this, and it may not come to light until months or even years after the work has been completed. This can be triggeredbyaWorkSafeBCpayrollauditor delinquency on the part of the contractor you had hired if their WorkSafeBC account falls behind.
Another common scenario involves unregistered contractors – contractors that operate as a sole proprietor or as a partnership and do not have any employees (custom work, sprayers, etc.). Legally, these two business structures are not required to hold WorkSafeBC coverage. This does not absolve you, the producer, from legal liability. In fact, in the event of an injury (or worse), the unregistered contractor, or their estate, could still file a lawsuit against you.
It’s worth noting that businesses operating as a sole proprietorship or as a partnership are legally required to hold WorkSafeBC coverage for their workers, but it does not necessarily mean the business will have coverage for the owner(s). In these instances, the proprietor or owner will need to purchase Personal Optional Protection (POP) to have coverage. You need to ensure that if that proprietor is on your site doing work for you that they have WSBC coverage that includes “POP”.
How do you protect yourself?
1. Documentation: Ensuring contractors have appropriate WorkSafeBC coverage prior to work commencing and throughout the duration of the construction is a vital first step.
 When I meet a producer in the North Okanagan, I generally try to focus on material that they don’t already know. One area that I’ve focussed on the last few years is contractor liability. This single topic is generally not understood and often is met with a response of surprise, confusion, or anger from a producer.
Contractor liability is a particularly important topic given the number of interactions that industry has with contractors and when considering the amount of construction that is occurring.
I have the conversation frequently. Just about every discussion starts the same, “I’ve hired someone to do a job (build a barn,installapivot,fixalight,trimhooves etc.). Therefore, they’re responsible for themselves.” The surprise, confusion, or anger usually sets in right after I inform them that as the owner, they have a responsibility that extends to all workers on their site. In short, it really matters who the Prime Contractor is.
Big or small, any job being performed on site will have a Prime Contractor. Simply defined, the Prime Contractor
is the person who ensures that all work activities are coordinated and there is a system in place to ensure compliance with the occupational health and safety regulations. In the absence of a prime contractor agreement, this designation defaults to the owner of the site.
The questions I generally start with when discussing this serious matter with the site owner include:
• Haveyoureviewedhazardsonyourfarm that the contractor may be exposed to?
• Have you reviewed how to contact the first aid attendants on site?
•Have you ensured the contractor possesses all certifications and qualifications to perform the job?
• And perhaps the most important – does the contractor have up to date WorkSafeBC clearance?
Financially, ensuring the contractor has their WorkSafeBC clearance in order can save the producer a substantial headache down the road. In the absence of WorkSafeBC coverage, the producer
2. Site Orientations: Perform contractor orientations with everyone on site, and if possible, assign and document prime contractor responsibility on larger projects (new construction projects such as hay barns and dairy barns or major renovations).
You can do everything right, but if you have not documented the incident it’s most often treated as if it didn’t happen.
AgSafe has an excellent construction program on the website that can be used to help walk you through the steps of ensuring you’re meeting compliance whenever a contractor is on site – from fixing an electrical outlet to constructing a state-of-the-art dairy, AgSafe has the resources you’ll need.
In the North Okanagan, I am there with you and for you, willing and able to address this or any other issue or concern in the all-important matter of your health and safety.
   How Mechanization Can Affect Farmer Wellbeing and Safety
Tadhg O’Leary, Regional Safety Advisor, AgSafe
Over the past decade many dairy farmers have turned to automation, replacing traditional practices with robotic milking and feeding systems. As a safety advisor, I encourage farmers to consider the various physical and mental wellbeing pros, cons, hazards and risks associated with any form of mechanization.
A shrinking work force in the dairy industry has left many farmers and families doing it all, leaving little time for anything but work and resulting in increased work- related stress. Robotic systems can be a very helpful tool. They are efficient and generally require about 5% of your farm labour to operate, compared to a typical milking operation which requires approximately 60% of farm labour for the milking process.
The Tech:
Like most technology these days, robotic systems generally communicate using smart phone apps and computer platforms. The system sends push notifications that can come at all times of day or night. You may feel like you are on call 24/7 responding to system notifications. This can be a new source of stress. The cows are fine, but you need to check that error code.
The Cows:
Cows appear to do well with these systems too, and typically transition easily. But some cows do find a change in routine difficult and confusing. Some may be nervous and unpredictable. Be alert to any changes in behaviour. Identify cows
that are behaving differently and let others working with you know.
This is a big transition, and you should not try to do it alone. Ask family, friends and other farmers for some assistance until everything is running smoothly.
The Workplace:
New equipment can bring new hazards. You will need to get fully trained in the safe operation of the equipment and ensure that others working with the system are trained as well. New safety protocols will also need to be incorporated into your
workplace safety plan and practices.
When it comes to
maintenance and repair
of these systems, it’s best
to contact a specialized
mechanic or contractor. If
you are doing adjustments
or maintenance to the
system, refer to the
operations manual for
the specific maintenance
procedure. Before you start
any work on the system,
lock-out safely shutting down the system to prevent unexpected start-up or energizing.
While smoothly operating robotic systems reduce the need for workers, the flip side is that many farmers find themselves working alone. Consider your working alone protocol – who would you call for help if you got injured? Check-in protocols can significantly affect the outcome of an injury incident.
The Life:
The most talked about benefits of using robotic milking and feeding systems are that they open up more time in the day and reduce physical demands and stress.
True, but beware the pitfalls of ‘free time.’ It’s easy to fill voids in your day with more work. That’s why it’s important to consider some healthy and engaging non-work- related activities.
Because the systems require less labour, there is less interaction with others during the day. You could spend hours alone
anxiety and impact your mental health.
Farmers who are happiest with their switch to robotic systems are those who spend more time with family and friends, taking part in sports or hobbies, or being more involved in their community. Staying active and social balances out the time spent alone in the barn and supports mental wellness. The time is yours to do something that you enjoy.
You know what’s best for your farm, family and workers. So, whether you choose a robotic system or not, always consider the benefits and drawbacks as they apply to your operation.
AgSafe Checking In Protocols
Do More Ag Mental Health Resources
WorkSafeBC Health and Safety for Dairy Farms
    AgSafe is the health and safety association for agricultural employers in British Columbia. The role of AgSafe safety advisors and consultants is to provide workplace safety education and advice to help producers achieve long-term safety goals.
 with your thoughts, allowing the brain to worry about
all kinds of things. This can create a new level of

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