Health & Safety in Orchards

In British Columbia, WorkSafeBC (WSBC) is responsible for enforcement of the occupational health and safety regulations. The requirements are found in the Workers Compensation Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations. Since January of 2005, all agricultural workplaces in BC fall under these regulations. The Act defines the legal responsibilities of employers, supervisors and workers as well as WSBC’s mandate and function of their Board. The Regulations have three broads sections. The Core Requirements, such as first aid requirements, apply to all BC workplaces. The general Hazard Requirements are specific to mobile equipment and hazardous materials. Section 28 of the industry specific requirements are specific to agriculture. At times other industry specific requirements may apply; a construction project would be an example of this.

WorkSafeBC insurance coverage is a no-fault insurance system that protects both the employer and the worker. All workplaces in BC that hire workers must register with WorkSafeBC. The cost of claims to the orchard industry in 2015 was $660,718. 2016 premiums for the industry is $1.57 for every $100 of assessable payroll. Assessments can have a lower premium (up to 50% reduction) or a higher premium (100% higher) based on an individual company’s claims history.   There is the potential to further reduce premiums by an additional 10% through successfully completing an audit of your Health and Safety Program through the Certificate of Recognition Program.  There is optional workplace disability insurance for individuals who are not covered under the Workers Compensation Act. This includes people, who are self-employed, as well as partners, proprietors and proprietor spouses in a non-limited company.

Duration of claims on orchards is significantly longer than many other BC industries. The most common incident type in orchards is falls from ladders. With sprains being the most common injury; fractures are also a significant portion of all claims. An employer with a strong commitment to health and safety goes a long way to help prevent workplace injury.

All workplaces must have a health and safety program, but the type of program required will depend on the number of regularly employed workers in your workforce. “Regularly employed” means those who work at least one continuous month in a year, whether full time or part time. In this calculation, WorkSafeBC considers the general size of the farms workforce, even if individual workers are seasonal.

Orchards have a moderate risk hazard rating and therefore workplaces with more than 19 workers are considered a large employer and must have a formal written health and safety program, while orchards with fewer than 20 workers must have a more informal health and safety program, based on documentation of regular meetings with workers.

Whether formal or informal, the elements of the health and safety program remain the same.

1. Clear indicators of the employer’s commitment to a healthy and safe workplace through leading by example, assigning safety responsibilities, involving employees in the health and safety program and record keeping of safety efforts.

2. Effective supervision of workers, including orientation and ongoing training, instruction and monitoring by supervisors will ensure work is being carried out in a competent and safe manner. Anyone with supervisory duties must understand and accept their health and safety responsibilities.

3. Worker involvement in the health and safety program will vary depending on the number of workers. A large employer must have a health and safety committee while an employer with 10-19 workers must have a safety representative.  All small employers must have documented monthly safety discussions with employees.

4. Training and education is required for all workers. Orientation of new and young workers is outlined in more detail below. Operators of mobile equipment such as tractors, forklifts and ATVs need to be trained then approved by management. Prior to approval, the employer must ensure that the worker has received education in the safety and legal requirements for each piece of equipment and has demonstrated competency in operation. Ladder training and enforcement of safe ladder use is the most important training to be done in an orchard. More injuries occur from falling off ladders than any other cause. Other training, applicable to orchards, is working alone procedures, chain saw safety, safe use of pruners, Pesticide Applicators Certificate, pesticide awareness and the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS).

5. Identification of hazards in the workplace, through regular inspections and ongoing reporting from employees and supervisory observation. To correct unsafe conditions promptly demonstrates management’s commitment to safety.  Active workplace should be inspected monthly and documentation kept.

6. Safe work practices are to be followed and understood by all workers. An example of a safe work practice would be a description of the communication requirements for various working alone tasks or how to safely operate a three wheeled mobile equipment platform.

7. Emergency Preparation and Incident Response. The main focus of a health and safety program is prevention, however, employers are required to prepare for emergencies, in various ways. Preparation can be broken down in categories, such as, before, during and after any health incident. Develop an emergency response plan, provide first aid equipment and trained people, then investigate all incidents and submit the necessary reports to WSBC. 

Shown in the table below, is the minimum requirements for workplaces with a moderate hazard rating with less than 20 minutes to a hospital. It is important to understand that this includes all workers on site. 

# workers/shift

Supplies, equipment, and facility

First aid certificate for attendant


Basic first aid kit



Level 1 first aid kit

Level 1 certificate


Level 2 first aid kit, Dressing station

Level 2 certificate

Workers need to receive instruction on how to summons a first aid attendant and the importance of reporting all workplace injuries. Employers are required to post emergency information in prominent locations on the farm. As well as reporting the incident to WorkSafeBC via Form 7, the completion of an Incident Investigation Report to determine root causes or work-related injuries and significant “close calls” in the workplace is required. Investigations identify hazards that need to be corrected, in order to prevent similar future occurrences. 

8. Regulations also have specific requirements for Specific Hazards. Examples of specific hazards are transportation of workers, hazardous materials, hearing conservation, confined spaces and lockout procedures.