An Act to Protect the Health and Well-being of Working Albertans was passed in December 2017, and the new Occupational Health and Safety (“OHS”) laws come into effect on June 1, 2018.
Highlights of the Act
1. Employer’s Duty
An employer must ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of:
- Workers engaged in the work of the employer (which would include employees and independent contractors);
- Other workers present at the work site (whether employed by that employer or not); and
- Other persons at or in the vicinity of the work site who may be affected by hazards from the work site.
“Welfare” is defined as “the conditions or facilities, in or near a work site, provided for the feeding, rest, hygiene, or sanitary requirements of a worker.” The Act is clear that health and safety includes physical, psychological and social well-being.
2. Education and Training
Employers must ensure that workers are aware of their rights and duties under OHS legislation. In order to meet this requirement, employers should hold periodic training sessions on the relevant provisions of the OHS legislation. Employers must also ensure that workers are adequately trained in all matters necessary to protect their health and safety. This includes training before the worker begins performing work and when a worker performs a new work activity, uses new equipment, performs new processes or is moved to new area or worksite.
3. Supervisor Obligations
Under the revised Act, supervisors now have expansive obligations to:
- comply generally with OHS legislation;
- ensure that they are competent to supervise every worker under their supervision;
- take all precautions necessary to protect the health and safety of every worker under their supervision;
- ensure that workers under their supervision work in accordance with the procedures and measures required by OHS legislation;
- ensure that every worker under their supervision uses hazard controls and wears personal protective equipment;
- ensures that no workers under their supervision are subjected to or participate in harassment or violence at the work site;
- report hazards, concerns or unsafe or harmful work site conditions.
4. Health and Safety Representative or Committee
A health and safety representative is required where an employer employs five to 19 workers. Employers with greater than 20 employees must have a joint work site health and safety committee and must establish a health and safety program.
5. For “Suppliers” and “Service Providers”
The Act now defines and places obligations on “Suppliers” and “Service Providers.”
A Supplier is defined as a person who sells, rents, leases, erects, installs or provides any equipment or who sells or otherwise provides any harmful substance or explosive to be used by a worker in respect of any occupation, project or work site.
A service provider is now defined as a person who provides training, consulting, testing, program development or other services in respect of any occupation, project or work site.
Suppliers and service providers must ensure that the goods or services provided meet the requirements under OH&S legislation.
What Should Employers Do?
Although the legislation requires employers who employ 20 or more employees to establish a health and safety program, we encourage all employers to develop and implement a health and safety policy.
This policy must include processes and procedures:
- to protect other employers or self-employed persons at the work site and an emergency response plan;
- for investigating accidents and refusals to work, worker participation in health and safety, reviewing and revising the program;
- for worker and supervisor training and re-training;
- regarding regular inspection of the work site;
- to identify and eliminate harassment, as harassment is now incorporated in the definition of hazard.
We encourage all organizations to review the upcoming legislation and to contact legal counsel if they have questions prior to the enactment of the legislation.
Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.