On June 10th, 2009, assent was given to the Act to modify the occupational health and safety regime, particularly in order to increase certain death benefits and fines and simplify the payment of the employer assessment[1] (the "Act").

The Act amends a number of provisions of the Act respecting industrial accidents and occupational diseases[2] (the "IAODA") and the Act respecting occupational health and safety[3] (the "OHSA").

The principal amendments to the IAODA concern increases to the minimum lump sum death benefit payable to the spouse of a deceased employee, the amount of the lump sum death benefit payable to the father and mother of a deceased employee who has no dependents, and the indemnity for funeral expenses. The Act also provides for payment of a lump sum death benefit to the children of a deceased employee who has no spouse. These amendments apply to deaths occurring from and after June 18, 2009.

The Act also provides that the employer must, as a general rule, pay its assessment to the Minister of Revenue in periodic instalments, based on the same terms and conditions as for payroll deductions and the other assessments employers must remit to the Minister. The payments will be calculated based on the salaries paid, no longer on the estimated salaries. This new method for the payment of assessments will come into force on January 1, 2011. In addition, the exchange of information for this purpose between the CSST and the Ministry of Revenue is permitted as of June 10, 2009.

The main amendment to the OHSA is a progressive increase in the fines to which an employer may be liable if it fails to meet its obligations under that Act (section 236 OHSA) or if it compromises the health, safety or physical well-being of an employee (section 237 OHSA).

From now on, the fines stipulated in section 236 OHSA will be, in the case of a legal person, at least $1,500 and up to $3,000 for a first offence, at least $3,000 and up to $6,000 for a second offence, and at least $6,000 and up to $12,000 for additional repeat offences. The maximum fine was formerly $2,000.

The fines stipulated in section 237 OHSA have also been increased, in the case of a legal person, to an amount of at least $15,000 and up to $60,000 for a first offence, at least $30,000 and up to $150,000 for a second offence, and at least $60,000 and up to $300,000 for additional repeat offences. The maximum fine was formerly $50,000.

The amendments to sections 236 and 237 OHSA will come into force on July 1, 2010. However, from July 1, 2010 to December 31, 2010, new sections 236 and 237 must be read by reducing the fines by one-third.

Since June 18, 2009, the OHSA has required that if a person, although not an employer, uses the services of workers for purposes of its establishment, it will have the same obligations as an employer for the protection of the worker’s health, safety and physical well-being. The debate of the bill in the National Assembly indicates that this provision concerns businesses that operate an establishment using the services of workers from an employment agency.

The incidents which the OHSA requires employers to report to the CSST have been amended as of June 18, 2009. From now on, this obligation will apply to incidents that caused the death of a worker, the loss of a limb or part of a limb, the total or partial loss of the use of a limb, or a significant physical trauma. These serious injuries, to several workers, would probably prevent them from performing their work for one working day, or bear material damage of $150,000 or more.