Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Act – Highlights of Changes Effective June 1, 2018
NeoSystems is committed to supporting its customers with valuable and educational resources to help them manage their health & safety programs successfully. On Monday, June 11th, NeoSystems proudly hosted an OHS presentation for our customers. The theme was Bill 30 – An Act to Protect the Health & Well-Being of Working Albertans. Our guest speaker was Darcy Brown, MSc, CRSP, Occupational Health & Safety Officer. There were many valuable takeaways our customers will be able to leverage in their business operations going forward.
The much anticipated Bill 30 came into effect on June 1st, 2018, making sweeping changes to Alberta’s OHS laws. Developed to include valuable input and feedback from Albertans, Bill 30 introduces new responsibilities, expands worker rights, and enhances enforcement.
In 2017, Alberta initiated a comprehensive review of the province’s existing OHS system, collecting input over a nine week period from Albertan employers, workers, and OHS professionals. Previously, Alberta had not reviewed its OHS system since 1976, and the newly implemented updates to the OHS act aim to harmonize the province’s health and safety legislation with the rest of Canada, while modernizing health and safety regulations to reflect modern workplaces.
Here are some highlights of changes to the Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Act that have been effective since June 1st, 2018:
Purposes of the OHS Act:
This new section defines the purpose of the OHS act, which is to promote and maintain the physical, psychological, and social well-being of workers. This is an important addition to the OHS act, because it is the first time the act is concerned with the mental wellness of workers, and not just their physical well-being. Other additions to this section include protecting workers from conditions adverse to their health and safety, and the prevention of workplace incidents, injuries, illness and disease.
Improved Workers Rights:
Since June 1st, 2018, workers now have three fundamental rights:
– The right to refuse dangerous work:
– Workers now have the right to refuse to perform dangerous work if they believe on reasonable grounds that the work is dangerous to them or others. Workers who exercise this right are now protected from reprisal or discriminatory action (including termination, demotion, transfer, reduction of hours, discontinuation of job, or change of job location).
– Workers must promptly report their refusal to a supervisor, and if the issue cannot be resolved with the help of a health and safety committee or representative, it may be referred to an OHS officer..
– The right to know:
– Workers must be informed about all potential hazards and have access to basic health and safety information on site.
– The right to participate in workplace health and safety:
– This right gets everyone involved and engaged in discussions and programs based around health and safety, including worker participation in health and safety committees.
Roles & Responsibility:
Everyone on a worksite is responsible for health and safety, and must cooperate with anyone exercising duty under legislation (OHS officers, Police, etc.) and share health and safety information according to their authority and control.
The updates to the OHS act in this area are extensive, and help modernize the health and safety responsibilities of many different roles, including employers, supervisors, workers, contractors, owners, prime contractors, suppliers, service providers, self-employed persons, and temporary staffing agencies. Highlights include the addition of many new roles and responsibilities, and an update to the responsibilities to prevent harassment and violence of any kind, with a new requirement to establish harassment and violence prevention plans.
It will crucial for everyone to read and understand their new responsibilities under the OHS act, to maintain health and safety and stay compliant under the new legislation. To read the full list of changes to roles and responsibilities under the OHS act, please visit: https://www.alberta.ca/ohs-changes.aspx#toc-6
Health and Safety Program
Going forward, all Albertan employers with more than 20 employees at a work site must establish a written health and safety program.
This program must include the following elements:
– OHS policy
– Hazard assessment
– Emergency response
– Responsibilities of work site parties
– Schedule and procedure for inspections
– Procedures to deal with OHS issues when another employer or self-employed person works on site
– Orientation and training
– Incident investigation
– Procedure for worker participation
– Reviewed every 3 years or when conditions change
For employers with less than 20 employees at a work site, workers must be involved in hazard assessment and control.
Work Site Health And Safety Committees (HSC) And HS Representatives
Additionally, employers with 20 or more employees must establish a joint work site health and safety committee for any work that lasts longer than 90 days. Smaller employers, with 5-19 employees must appoint a health and safety representative for any work that lasts longer than 90 days.
These updates seem to be a step in the right direction when it comes to increasing employee engagement and involvement in workplace health and safety.
Harassment and Violence
Under the new OHS act, harassment and violence in the workplace are now considered hazards, and employers must develop and implement prevention plans and promptly resolve any issues that occur.
Duties of the Government
The new act provides clarity regarding the government’s role and duties in maintaining and protecting workplace safety. These updates include reviewing the OHS Act every 5 years and ensuring the collection and publication of OHS statistics.
Reporting Serious Injuries and Incidents
Under the new legislation, employers or prime contractors must report any incidents that result in the hospitalization of a worker. This replaces the previous reporting threshold of two or more days of hospitalization.
Incidents with potential to cause serious injuries and near misses must also be reported. PSI (Potentially Serious Incidents) include any injuries that require medical attention beyond first-aid, or any incidents that could have caused a serious injury, resulting from a hazard that was not identified or properly controlled.
A significant amendment here is that medical examinations to determine the extent of a workplace injury or presence of an occupational illnesses may only be conducted with the consent of the worker. The time spent on the medical examination will also now be considered time at work, so workers do not forgo medical examinations to avoid missing wages..
Compliance and Enforcement
There have been a few updates and clarifications regarding inspections and investigations. The new OHS legislation updates and expands the powers of OHS officers. For example, OHS officers now have the authority to enter private dwellings that are also work sites. However, they require either a warrant or consent from the owner or occupant before entering. OHS officers now also have the authority to issue a stop work order, which will apply to a single employer with multiple work sites. If this occurs, workers must be paid their normal wages and benefits, but may be reassigned to alternate work.
Another highlight of this update is that the person who receives a compliance order is now required to report back to OHS on measures taken to resolve the compliance issue. This must also be communicated to their health and safety committee or representative.
Bill 30 is a great example Alberta’s efforts to continuously refine and improve workplace health and safety compliance. Given our focus on the world of safety and compliance, we are excited to see the release of this new OHS legislation. Increasingly stringent health and safety regulations are reinforcing the idea that both organizations and individuals must strive to make safety their top priority in the workplace. Over time, as Alberta’s employers begin to implement the new standards, we expect that Bill 30 will bring about much safer, healthier, and more efficient workplaces throughout the province.
The world of safety and compliance is evolving, and NeoSystems is excited to be participating in one of the rapid growth aspects of this digital transformation. With ITRAK QHSE Software, we are providing world-class technology that enables companies to build and manage their safety and compliance programs successfully, allowing them to become more efficient and proactive in their operations. With ITRAK’s flexible and customizable platform, our users are empowered and can respond quickly to these ever-changing legislative regulations.
If your business operates in Alberta, it is important that you keep yourself informed of your obligations under the current OHS legislation. The updates and additions included in Bill 30 are extensive, and if you are wondering about how Bill 30 affects you and your employees, please use the resources below.