Alberta has overhauled its occupational health and safety legislation. Effective June 1, 2018, with the passage of Bill 30, the Alberta government made extensive changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHS) for the first time in over 40 years. These changes are meant to modernize the act, to better protect workers and to ensure that Alberta's workforce has the same rights and protections as other Canadian workers. The changes are also consistent with a national trend toward empowering workers, giving more power to regulators and placing more pressure on employers to prevent accidents, injuries and fatalities.
Here are some highlights of some of the changes:
The new Act provides formalized workers’ rights that encourage individuals to understand the risks within their jobs and to protect against “discriminatory action” when he or she speaks up about safety in the workplace. The changes to workers rights include:
- Right to know. All employers must let workers know about potential hazards and ensure everyone has access to basic health and safety information on site.
- Right to participate in workplace health and safety. This ensures workers are involved in health and safety discussions, including participation in health and safety committees.
- Right to refuse dangerous work. Workers can decline to perform any work they decide is too dangerous, are protected from any form of retaliation for exercising this right, and will still be paid while the refusal is being investigated. Other workers may be assigned to the work, but the new workers must be advised that someone else refused the work, the reason for the refusal, and be made aware of their own right to refuse the work after the employer determines there is not a risk.
Outlining roles and responsibilities
The new Act significantly expands employers’ responsibilities, and also recognizes and imposes obligations on several work site parties that were not named in the old act, including supervisors, self-employed persons, and temporary staffing agencies.
Employers are responsible for:
- Ensuring the health, safety, and welfare of workers.
- Ensuring workers are aware of their rights and duties under the law and are aware of any health and safety issues.
- Providing competent supervisors, training workers, and preventing violence and harassment.
- Ensuring public safety at or in the vicinity of work sites.
- Working with the joint worksite health and safety committee or health and safety representative.
Supervisors are responsible for:
- Supervisors must be competent, protect the health and safety of workers, advise workers of all health and safety hazards, report all health and safety concerns to the employer, and prevent violence and harassment.
- Workers are responsible for ensuring the health and safety of themselves and others, cooperating with their employer/supervisor for purposes of health and safety, using all devices and wear all PPE, report unsafe or unhealthy conditions, and refrain from causing or participating in violence and harassment.
Contractors are responsible for:
- Responsible for ensuring that work being performed by employers under their control does not endanger the health and safety of persons at the work site.
Under the new act, an employer must report:
- Injuries or accidents resulting in a worker being admitted to hospital. This replaces the previous threshold of having to be in the hospital for two days.
- “Potentially serious” incidents that had potential to cause serious injury to a person, but did not.