Recently, the Occupational Health and Safety Policy and Program Development Branch of Alberta Human Services collaborated with the OHS Council to develop a draft proposed administrative penalty system in Alberta. Because this is an administrative system, OHS Officers, or others designated by legislation, would have the authority to impose monetary penalties on employers for OHS violations without involving the judicial system. Likely, any protest or appeal of a penalty would go to a board or tribunal designated to administer the system, rather than the courts.

According to Alberta Human Services, an administrative penalty system would “expand the spectrum of compliance enforcement tools for OHS contraventions”. In other words, there would be another way to make employers pay.

Such penalties would be issued by OHS officers who felt a workplace was unsafe. Officers would consider their observations of the workplace and knowledge of the employer. Presumably, this means that officers would most often be looking for repeat offenders, generally non-compliant employers or troublesome worksites.

Penalties could be issued without any incident occurring. The purported advantage of this system is that penalties can be given before a risk becomes an injury or death, thereby avoiding any actual harm. This system seeks to deal with problems and worksite issues before they result in an injury or death.

This move would follow other Canadian provinces, such as British Columbia, who already have administrative penalty systems in place. In British Columbia, administrative penalties are issued where an employer has failed to take sufficient precautions to prevent work related injury and illness, has failed to comply with the applicable legislation or where the workplace or working conditions are considered unsafe. Generally, officers impose penalties where there is noncompliance with applicable legislation, reckless disregard for applicable legislation or the safety of workers, repeat offences by an employer or any situation that WorkSafeBC considers to warrant such a penalty. It is easy to see that a penalty may be issued in an extremely wide variety of circumstances. It is likely that an administrative penalty system in Alberta would be similar to that in British Columbia.

Currently, the proposed administrative penalty system in Alberta is only in the consultation phase. It appears that the amount of a penalty may range between $1,000 - $5,000. The Occupational Health and Safety Policy and Program Development Branch of Alberta Human Services’ proposal is still only drafting its final proposal. You can read about the proposed system and participate in the consultation survey at: http://employment.alberta.ca/SFW/14764.html.