New Safety Legislation – I Bet You’ve Got Questions!

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April 4, 2018
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June 12, 2018

New Safety Legislation – I Bet You’ve Got Questions!

So, have you heard about Alberta OHS’s new Act, An Act to Protect the Health and Well-Being of Working Albertans? We’ve had a ton of people ask us questions about the Act, why it’s changed, how it affects Alberta businesses, etc. So we thought we’d put together an FAQ so that you can all find the answers right here! So, let’s go!

Why did they have to change the Act anyways?
Alberta’s OHS Legislation hasn’t had a major review and overhaul since it was enacted in 1976. That’s 42 years! It hasn’t changed a whole lot since I was 4 years old! Imagine how much the workplace has changed in 42 years. How much the safety culture in the workplace has changed in 42 years.

What’s the main purpose of these changes?
The new legislation will give workers three basic rights:

  • the right to refuse dangerous work
  • the right to know of potential hazards
  • the right to participate in health and safety discussion and in health and safety committees

Do these changes really apply to me?
Um, yes. They apply to everyone. I don’t care what your business does, what industry you’re in, or how many employees you have. This safety legislation applies to you. In fact, that’s what I love about this safety legislation, is that it’s protecting MORE Alberta workers. Before, I think it was way to easy for Alberta businesses to slip through the cracks because many things were implied or assumed, whereas now, things are explicit. Amen!

The right to refuse dangerous work…is dangerous work just another way of saying imminent danger?
Basically, yeah. But within the new legislation it’s not just about wording. It’s clear that if someone refuses dangerous work, there must be specific processes that the worker must do and that the employer (whether it’s a supervisor or manager or whomever) must do. Also, a worker who refuses dangerous work, must be paid while the dangerous work situation is being inspected. There are a few other aspects too. Important stuff. Read up on it.

Does my business need to have a health and safety committee?
Oh man, this is the million dollar question! Here are the specific rules:

  • larger employers (20 or more workers at a work site) will be required to have a joint worksite health and safety committee for work lasting 90 days or more
  • smaller employers (5-19 workers at a work site) will be required to have a health and safety representative for work lasting 90 days or more
  • an employer can use an alternative approach to meeting these requirements with approval from an OHS director

Crystal clear right? Alberta OHS put out a great document that explains a number of scenarios that might help you determine how your organization will fit into the committee/representative debate.

What’s up with the whole Joint Worksite Health and Safety Committee or Representative things anyways? We’ve been fine without one all this time!
Did you know that Alberta is the only province in Canada that hasn’t had this as part of their OHS legislation. This is Alberta’s way of catching up with the times! And the purpose of the Joint Worksite Health and Safety Committee or Representative is to ensure that workers have the opportunity to participate in an organization’s health and safety program. Which I am all for. I’ve worked with dozens and dozens of organizations. And I can definitely say that when an organization involves their workers in the development, implementation and maintenance of their safety program, it succeeds. If an organization’s safety program is a top-down process (in other words, it’s management tell workers what to do, how to do it, when to do it, etc.) then things go sideways quickly.

How will the new Act affect my SECOR/COR?
I’ve only been able to get a definitive answer from ACSA (the Alberta Construction Safety Association) so I can’t say for sure what the other certifying partners like Energy Safety Canada (formerly Enform) or AASP or any of the others have planned, but ACSA will be launching a new COR audit tool in January(ish) 2019. That audit tool will reflect changes within the new Act. And I’m sure the SECOR Self-Evaluation Tool will reflect these changes as well. Basically, I am going to assume that eventually, probably within the next 12 months or so, most COR certifying partners will modify their COR and SECOR audit tools to reflect the changes in the Act.

Where do I find more information?
There are resources all over the place! The Alberta government has done a great job of providing updates online, webinars, PDFs (also available online). They have been speaking at safety associations, answering questions, etc. The information is out there my friends! There are no secrets! Just Google ‘Bill 30 Alberta’ (Bill 30 was what the Act was before it became the Act) and you can find everything. Also, keep your eyes and ears open for events, webinars, lunch & learns, etc.

What if I don’t have time to sort out how these changes need to be implemented into my safety program?
Well, this is where Boreal can help you. We’ve already put together an Update Package for anyone that wants to stay in compliance but just doesn’t have the time to sort how which of these changes applies and how. Basically we would take your safety manual and orientations (employee and supervisor), put the changes in the appropriate sections, provide you with a Revisions Guide to tell you what we’ve done and what you need to do to implement these changes within your organization (for example, how exactly do you set up your H&S Committee? who should be on it? when should they meet?) and also provide you with a Communication Guide so that you can train your employees on the changes.

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