In October 2021, the Quebec Government passed Bill 59, An Act to modernize the occupational health and safety regime. The Bill makes substantive changes to statutes involving health and safety in the workplace. These changes will gradually come into effect, with some already in force since October and others coming into force from now until 2024.
Key Features of Bill 59
The Bill introduces new provisions to the Act respecting occupational health and safety (the “AOHS”), including the following:
- Prevention Program or Action Plan: Workplaces with 20 or more workers must establish and implement a prevention program that is specific to the workplace. The program must include certain features, such as identifying the health and safety risks in the workplace, along with the follow-up measures that will be taken to eliminate or control these risks, among other things. For workplaces with less than 20 workers, employers must instead establish an action plan to eliminate or reduce dangers to health, safety, and wellbeing.
- Health and Safety Committee and Representative: All workplaces with 20 or more workers must establish a health and safety committee, regardless of the workplace’s operations or industry. Committees must include at least one individual that represents the workers and another that represents the employer. Once a committee is established, workers must designate a health and safety representative who is responsible for inspecting the workplace, receiving accident notices, investigating accidents, and filing complaints. For workplaces with less than 20 workers, a health and safety liaison officer should instead be designated to facilitate communication between the employer and the workers.
- Protection for Workers Exposed to Violence: Employers are obligated to take necessary measures to ensure the protection of a worker exposed to violence in the workplace. This extends to family violence, psychological violence, sexual violence, and physical violence.
- Teleworking: The AOHS applies to teleworking, where applicable.
Bill 59 also introduces new provisions under the Act respecting industrial accidents and occupational diseases (the “AIAOD”), such as:
- Presumption of Reinstatement: An employer is deemed to be able to reinstate a worker who has suffered an employment injury, even once an employee’s right to return to work has expired. This presumption can only be rebutted if an employer can show it would experience undue hardship related to reinstatement.
- Presumption of Occupational Diseases: The AIAOD enacts the Regulation respecting occupational diseases. This Regulation contains a list of diseases that are presumed to have been contracted in the workplace.
The provisions requiring prevention programs, action plans, and health and safety committees and representatives come into force on April 6, 2022. For workplaces in Quebec with 20 or more workers, employers should begin creating their prevention programs and forming their health and safety committees, in line with Bill 59’s requirements.