Support for Saskatchewan Agricultural Producers and OHS Obligations During COVID-19

Authors: John Agioritis, Tom Richards

The Saskatchewan government recently announced a number of initiatives to support agricultural producers who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including: business risk management programs; crop insurance deadlines; and federal supports.

An overview of those initiatives can be found on the Province of Saskatchewan’s website. In addition, the provincial government has issued a reminder that agricultural producers need to be aware of their Occupational Health and Safety (“OHS”) obligations as they relate to COVID-19.

Recent government directives have broadly characterized agricultural producers as an “Allowable Business Service”.  These services are allowed to continue to operate, however, Allowable Business Services are required to adhere to the terms of the April 17, 2020 Public Health Order and social distancing protocols. An overview of those protocols can be found in our Saskatchewan Government Provides Workplace Social Distancing Guidelines blog.

To that end, it is important for agricultural producers to have plans in place to respond to COVID-19. The provincial government’s website states “[w]hile producers continue to get their work done to keep our vital supply chain functioning, everyone, including those working outdoors, must follow protective measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.” In this regard, the province has released an information page which provides, among other things, an overview of OHS obligations for agricultural producers.

Agricultural producers, including farms and ranches, that are allowed to operate must comply with social distancing protocols and follow COVID-19 response requirements for workplaces, including increased sanitation protocols, personal protective equipment and worker health. Farms and ranches should also have plans in place for business continuity in the case of increased worker absences due to illness or isolation. In light of these requirements, modifications to your agricultural business operations may be required to prevent the transmission and spread of COVID-19. A failure to comply with a public health order can result in significant penalties.

MLT Aikins will continue to monitor the situation and provide additional updates on legal issues that may impact agricultural producers. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out to our team if you require assistance in getting your operation prepared for addressing the operational impacts of COVID-19, and particularly if you are unsure as to how your operation can adhere to social distancing protocols and following COVID-19 response requirements.

Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.