11/23/2015 12:43 EST | Updated 11/24/2015 12:59 EST

Alberta Boy's Death In Forklift Accident Raises Talk Of Proposed Farm Safety Legislation

Christopher Meder via Getty Images

KILLAM, Alta. — A 10-year-old boy killed at a Hutterite colony in Alberta had just finished cleaning up some hog barns and was driving a forklift on a gravel road when the machine toppled into the ditch, says his grandfather.

"He somehow looked back or whatever and got too close to the grading,'' Mike Stahl, manager of the Lougheed colony near Killam southeast of Edmonton, said Monday.

Joseph Stahl was pinned underneath the forklift, he said.

Witnesses performed first aid but the boy had serious injuries and died at the scene.

The death comes as new legislation is being considered in Alberta for farm and ranch workers, although there are no details yet on how it might better protect children.

RCMP said the boy, who died Saturday, was familiar with the forklift he was driving.

Stahl confirmed his grandson had operated the machine before. He declined to talk further about Joseph, explaining that the community will be mourning in private.

He did say the boy's death has been a shock to the 80 people who live in the close-knit colony.

Everyone there knew his grandson, Stahl said.

The death comes as new legislation is being considered in Alberta for farm and ranch workers.

Last month, three sisters were killed on their family's farm in west-central Alberta. Mounties said Catie Bott, 13, and 11-year-old twins Dara and Jana suffocated in a truck loaded with canola.

The province has released statistics showing that there have been eight other deaths on farms so far this year, including another child. There was also a child among 17 people killed on Alberta farms in 2014.

Alberta is the only jurisdiction in Canada without any form of labour relations coverage for farm and ranch workers — and one of four provinces that doesn't protect them with mandatory workers' compensation.

Last week, the NDP government introduced legislation that would bring labour and employment standards, occupational health and safety rules and workers' compensation to the agriculture sector.

Details on how the law might protect children are to be determined following public consultations over the next few weeks.

Jobs Minister Lori Sigurdson said her heart goes out to the family of the boy killed on the weekend. There can be no workplace investigation into his death, she said, because the proposed law hasn't yet passed.

"Until the exemptions are lifted from occupational health and safety, which will start on Jan. 1, we don't have authority to go onto that farm,'' she said.

"But we are meeting very shortly with industry and farm and ranch owners to talk about how we can prevent this type of thing from happening in the future.''

She wouldn't say whether she wants to see age limits put on what jobs and farm chores children can do.

"There needs to be an understanding that children are not miniature adults, that they do have limitations."

Glen Blahey with the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association in Winnipeg said children should be involved in some farm work but not all. They lack size, cognitive capabilities and experience, he said.

"There needs to be an understanding that children are not miniature adults, that they do have limitations.

"Parents, I think, they tend to forget that.''

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