Sweeping changes coming for Alberta’s occupational health and safety laws

Health and Occupational Safety

Employment Alert

By:

More than 40 years after its last in-depth review of Alberta’s occupational health and safety legislation the Alberta Government tabled Bill 30: An Act to Protect the Health and Well-being of Working Albertans, which passed first reading on November 27, 2017. Bill 30 proposes changes to the Province’s Workers’ Compensation Act (“WCA”) and Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”). The proposed changes arise from a review of Alberta’s occupational health and safety system that commenced in August 2017. An in-depth review of the Province’s occupational health and safety legislation has not occurred since 1976.

Highlighted proposed changes to the WCA

Some of the significant proposed changes to the WCA in Bill 30 include:

  • Establishing an independent Fair Practices Office to help navigate the Workers’ Compensation Board system.
  • Establishing a Code of Rights and Conduct that outlines the rights of workers and employers.
  • Removing the maximum insurable earnings cap of $98,700 per year.
  • 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.
  • Introducing an obligation for employers to support the “return to work” of workers who suffer injuries and illnesses in their workplaces, including a duty to accommodate these workers to the point of undue hardship.

Highlighted proposed changes to the OHSA

As a starting point, Bill 30 looks to enshrine three basic rights of workers in the OHSA:

  • The right to refuse unsafe work.
  • The right to know about potential hazards and have access to basic health and safety information in the workplace.
  • The right to participate in health and safety discussions, including participation in health and safety committees.

Bill 30 proposes other significant changes to the OHSA, some of which include:

  • Protecting workers from workplace violence and harassment by creating obligations for employers and supervisors to prevent workplace violence and harassment, and requiring workers to refrain from such activities.
  • Mandating joint work site health and safety committees for workplaces with 20 or more employees.
  • Requiring employers with between 5 and 19 workers to have a health and safety representative in the workplace.
  • Requiring payment of wages and benefits on worksites subjected to stop work or stop use orders or worksites undergoing safety improvements.
  • Requiring employers to report “near miss” incidents.

If Bill 30 is approved, most of the changes to the WCA will take effect January 1, 2018 and most changes to the OHSA will take effect June 1, 2018.

Stay tuned for further developments.