Bill 30, which passed Third Reading on December 12, 2017, brings significant changes to Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (the “OHSA”). Many of the amendments to the OHSA under Bill 30 are effective June 1, 2018. Key among these changes are new obligations on employers surrounding Health and Safety Representatives, Committees and Programs.
Health and Safety Committees
As of June 1, 2018, employers with 20 or more employees at a worksite working more than 90 days must have a Health and Safety Committee. Health and Safety Committees must consist of at least 4 people, half of which cannot be associated with the management team of a worksite. There are specific prescriptive requirements in the legislation surrounding the election and process/procedures followed by a Health and Safety Committee in fulfilling its responsibilities.
Among its other duties, a Health and Safety Committee is responsible for inspecting the worksite for hazards, helping employers respond to health and safety concerns of workers, helping resolve unsafe work refusals, helping develop health and safety policies and safe work procedures, helping with new employee health and safety orientation, and developing and promoting education and training programs.
Health and Safety Representatives
As of June 1, 2018, employers with 5-19 employees at a worksite working more than 90 days must have a Health and Safety Representative. There are specific prescriptive requirements in the legislation surrounding the selection of a Health and Safety Representative of a worksite.
The duties of the Health and Safety Representative are the same as those of a Health and Safety Committee. The Health and Safety Representative must meet regularly with the employer and may call special meetings with the employer for urgent concerns.
Health and Safety Programs
Effective June 1, 2018, employers with 20 or more employees will be required to have a written Health and Safety Program that must be reviewed at least every three years. Under the amended OHSA, Health and Safety Programs must, among other requirements, include:
- an emergency response plan;
- the responsibilities of the employer, supervisors and workers;
- investigation procedures for incidents, injuries and refusals to work;
- health and safety orientation and training processes/procedures for workers and supervisors;
- procedures to facilitate worker involvement in workplace health and safety; and
- identification of existing hazards.
What Does this Mean for Employers?
Bill 30 creates new occupational health and safety obligations on employers through the amended OHSA. As seen in the examples above, many of these new requirements are formal and prescriptive, which means extra care must be taken to ensure employers don’t violate the OHSA by missing a minor section in the legislation and failing to implement specific requirements. Meeting these new obligations will require diligent review of the amended legislation by employers and a concerted effort towards covering all their bases, to avoid falling afoul of the amended OHSA.
Bill 30 also brings an increased emphasis on awareness, training and transparency to the OHSA. The amended OHSA requires employers ensure that Health and Safety Representatives, Health and Safety Committees, workers and supervisors are trained on occupational health and safety issues in the workplace and procedures for addressing these issues. Employers should note that, in some instances, meeting these training requirements will require using organizations with certain accreditations or those organizations designated by the Minister.
Penalties for failing to abide by the provisions of the amended OHSA can range from administrative fines of $10,000 per violation and a further $10,000 per day for continuing violations, to fines of up to $500,000, for a single violation, and an additional $30,000 per day for continuing violations, in the case of more serious violations.
The front-end investment of early compliance with the revised OHSA will pay for itself, not only financially, but also in the time and energy saved by updating policies and procedures before an issue arises, as opposed to doing so in the midst of addressing a complaint or an alleged violation.