Occupational Health and Safety changes in Alberta
You may have heard about the coming changes to the Alberta OHS Legislation and WCB.
The intent is to provide further protection for workers in Alberta.
Below are the Bill 30 highlights:
• Enshrining the three basic rights of workers in Alberta’s legislation:
◦ The right to refuse unsafe work. The proposed changes protect workers from any form of reprisal for exercising this right, including loss of compensation or benefits.
◦ The right to know. The proposed changes ensure workers are informed about potential hazards and have access to basic health and safety information in the workplace.
◦ The right to participate. The proposed changes ensure workers are involved in health and safety discussions, including participation in health and safety committees.
• Mandating joint work site health and safety committees for workplaces with 20 or more employees. These committees are responsible for:
◦ inspecting the work site 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
◦ developing and promoting education and training programs.
• Requiring employers with between five and 19 workers to have a health and safety representative in the workplace.
Note: there is nothing saying this has to be a full time role.
• Clarifying roles and responsibilities of workplace parties for health and safety, including the obligations of employers, supervisors, workers, owners, prime contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, service providers, self-employed persons and temporary staffing agencies.
• Protecting workers from workplace violence and harassment. This includes new legislative definitions as well as outlining the responsibility of employers and supervisors to prevent workplace violence and harassment, and workers to refrain from these activities.
• Protecting workers from loss of wages or benefits on worksites subjected to stop work or stop use orders or while safety improvements are being made.
• Requiring employers to report “near miss” incidents to OHS. A “near miss” incident is one that had the potential to cause serious injury to a person but did not.
• Expanding the ability of the courts to impose creative sentences, such as providing funding for research on preventative medicine or health and safety training programs.
• Requiring the government to publish more information collected during compliance and enforcement activities, including the results of OHS investigations.
• Requiring OHS laws be reviewed every five years to ensure they remain relevant to modern and changing workplaces.
Workers’ Compensation Board changes
• Establishing an independent Fair Practices Office that helps Albertans navigate the WCB system by providing additional resources to support workers every step of the way.
• Establishing a Code of Rights and Conduct that outlines the rights of workers and employers, while also explaining how WCB staff would recognize these rights and conduct.
• Removing the maximum insurable earnings cap of $98,700 per year, allowing injured workers to receive benefits in line with their expected annual earnings.
• Improving benefits for:
◦ Surviving spouses and children when a worker is killed on the job.
◦ Young workers who sustain a long-term injury that affects their career opportunities.
• Improving retirement benefits for injured workers to better recognize the impact on an injured worker’s retirement savings.
• Providing an option for interim relief while decisions are under review and appeal, helping to reduce potential hardship while disputed claims are being reviewed or awaiting appeal.
• Providing greater choice for injured workers in selecting health professionals.
• Enhancing coverage for psychological injuries, including post-traumatic stress disorder, for all occupations where workers have experienced a traumatic incident at work.
• Requiring employers to continue providing health benefit programs to injured workers under existing coverage for one year after the date of the injury.
• Establishing an Occupational Disease and Injury Advisory Committee that would review occupational diseases, and provide advice on emerging trends in medical science.
•Continuing to allow the WCB to determine how the Accident Fund is used.
• Introducing an obligation for employers to support the “return to work” of workers who suffer injuries and illnesses in their workplaces. Employers will have a duty to accommodate workers to the point of undue hardship.
I suggest completing a review of your workplace with these changes. This will also result in a change in the OHS legislation in 2018.
You can print out the new information or direct employees to an electronic link >