Tractor tragedy strikes on eve of Ontario safety hearings

Union calls for increased protection for farm workers

A seasonal farm worker from Mexico remains in an Ontario hospital with life-threatening injuries after the tractor he was driving was struck from behind by a passenger vehicle. Trinidad Mendieta, a 34-year-old migrant worker, was rushed into surgery May 18 after his tractor was rear-ended on a service road near a Lincoln, Ont., farm. He remains in an induced coma following an operation to repair his severed leg.

The accident happened just days before the Ontario Ministry of Labour Expert Advisory Panel on Occupational Health and Safety is set to conduct public consultations on reducing workplace deaths and injuries. Union representatives say the tractor accident highlights the need for stronger health and safety protection for farm workers.

“Farm work is some of the most dangerous work there is and tragically what happened to Mr. Mendieta is just the latest example,” said Wayne Hanley, the national president of UFCW Canada. “Agriculture workers in Ontario absolutely need better protection than they get now, and the Expert Advisory Panel can't ignore that."

Next week, UFCW Canada in partnership with the Agriculture Workers Alliance will tell the Advisory Panel of the urgent need to improve regulations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) as they apply to agriculture - including mandatory training for heavy equipment operation including tractors, as well as other critical workplace safety regulations.

Currently OHSA only provides basic guidelines for farm operations. While workers have the right to refuse dangerous work, Ontario farms are exempt from other OHSA regulations that apply to almost all other Ontario workplaces.

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