Legislative changes

On June 1, 2014, significant amendments to the New Brunswick Occupational Health and Safety Act (the "NB OHS Act") will come into force which will result in the following changes:

  1. Employers who employ more than 20 employees throughout New Brunswick (as opposed to a single workplace) will be required to establish a written safety policy setting out the responsibilities of the employer and its employees.

Employers will have to consult with their employees when establishing and implementing this policy and while they won't have to file their safety policy with the New Brunswick Occupational Health and Safety Commission ("the Commission") anymore, a copy of their policy must be available for inspection by an occupational health and safety officer at each place of employment.

  1. Employers who employ more than 20 employees throughout New Brunswick will be required to develop, execute and annually review/update, a written health and safety program.

A health and safety committee or representative must be appointed (if not already done so) for the employer to consult with when establishing and reviewing this program. If requested, employers must provide a copy of the program to this committee or representative and to employees at the place of employment or the Commission. These programs must include, but are not limited to, provisions respecting the following matters:

  • Health and safety training and supervision of employees.
  • Preparation of written work procedures and codes of practice for the implementation of health and safety work practice as prescribed within the NB OHS Act and regulations.
  • Identifying the types of work for which work safety procedures should be implemented. This includes a hazard identification system which should identify potential hazards and establish protocols for the inspection of potential hazards, timely reporting of hazards by employees and prompt follow up and control. A system for the investigation of hazardous occurrences must also be established that determines the cause of a hazardous occurrence and identifies strategies to prevent recurrences.
  • A record management system that includes reports of employee training, accident statistics, work procedures, health and safety inspections, maintenance, follow up and investigations.
  • Monitoring the implementation and effectiveness of the program.
  1. A new employee will include those who:
  • Hold a new position.
  • Are new to the place of employment.
  • Are returning to a position or place of employment in which the hazards have changed.
  • Are under 25 years old and returning to a position or place of employment after an absence of six months.
  • Affected by a change in hazards of a position or place of employment.

New employees will be required to receive the relevant orientation and training specific to their position or place of employment before beginning work. However, if the employee can provide documented evidence of prior satisfactory training, an employer may only be required to provide orientation.  

Employers will be required to keep records of the orientation and training of new employees for a minimum of three years and orientation must include:

  1. The name and contact information of the employee's supervisor.
  2. The contact information of the employer's health and safety committee or representative.
  3. Any rights, liabilities, and duties of an employee as stipulated within the NB OHS Act or its regulations, including reporting requirements and the right to refuse to perform an act.
  4. Health and safety procedures and codes of practice related to the new employee's job tasks.
  5. First aid facility locations and how to obtain first aid.
  6. Procedures related to reporting illness and injuries.
  7. The use of personal protective equipment, if applicable.
  1. Employers will no longer be required to ensure that employees comply with the NB OHS Act, but will now be required to provide: the information, instruction, training and supervision necessary to ensure an employee's health and safety.
  2. Occupational health and safety officers will have the power to require an employer to submit a written report outlining the employer's steps of compliance with any order made by that officer. Such reports will be required within a timeframe set by that officer and must be signed by a member of the health and safety committee or representative.
  3. The scenarios in which employers must immediately notify the Commission will include instances where an injury results in: a loss of consciousness, amputation, a fracture to any part of the body except fingers or toes, a burn that requires medical attention, a loss of vision, a deep laceration, admission to hospital as an in-patient or death.

Employers will also have to inform the Commission if a catastrophic event or a catastrophic equipment failure occurs that either results, or could have resulted, in an injury. Workers Compensation Amendments Amendments will also come into force under the New Brunswick Workers Compensation Act (the "NB WCB Act") on June 1, 2014 which will result in the following changes:

  1. An application for compensation under the NB WCB Act in the case of death will be required to be made within six months after the date of accident as opposed to six months after the time of death. The power to waive this limitation period will be limited to situations where there was a justifiable delay; the prior legislated right of the Commission to pay the claim on the basis that it was just and ought to be allowed will be removed.
  2. Employers will be required to develop and implement a system requiring employees to provide notice to them of any incidents which the employer must report to the Commission. Such incidents include accidents resulting in injury that may entitle the employee or their dependants to compensation/medical aid under the NB WCB Act or those where an employee is diagnosed with an occupational disease.

Employers will be required to then notify the Commission within three days of receiving this notice. Where the employer has no knowledge of an accident until receiving notice from an employee, the employer will have three days after receipt of that notice to make its report to the Commission.

Recent cases

In April of 2013, a lumber mill pleaded guilty to a charge under sections 9(2)(a) and 9(2)(c) of the NB OHS Act for failing to ensure the safe working condition of its equipment and failing to provide proper training and supervision to its employees. A maintenance crew attempted to cool a line containing a liquid by product created in the pulp process. In doing so, the crew modified fittings and used coupling mechanisms which were not in accordance with industry standards. When the crew charged the line, the pressure freed the hose from the fittings and the liquid was released. One worker sustained burns from the liquid. The company was fined $5,000 for each charge plus a $1,000 victim surcharge for a total fine of $12,000.

Also in April of 2013, a New Brunswick seafood plant pleaded guilty to a charge under the NB OHS Act for failing to provide information, instruction, training and supervision necessary to ensure the health and safety of employees.

A group of workers had been unloading crab from a truck trailer when the trailer shifted, creating a gap between it and the loading bay; the workers requested that the driver reposition the truck. When the driver repositioned, a platform and one employee fell over four feet to the ground at which point the driver, unaware the fallen employee was behind him, backed up and pinned the employee resulting in the employee suffering fractured ribs and a punctured lung. The company was fined $4,000.