Carscallen Blog

New Occupational Health and Safety Act coming to Alberta

Posted by Carscallen LLP on Jun 1, 2021 1:05:23 PM

Written by Natalie L. Leclerc and Michael A. Custer

As we previously discussed on the blog here, the government of Alberta is replacing the current Occupational Health and Safety Act[1] this year (“Current OHSA”) with a new Occupational Health and Safety Act[2] (“New OHSA”). The New OHSA was introduced in Bill 47 last December, the Ensuring Safety and Cutting Red Tape Act, 2020[3] (the “Act”), as part of the provincial government’s implementation of sweeping red tape reduction measures across the province.

The New OHSA will reverse a number of provisions in the Current OHSA when it comes into effect. Some of the notable changes that will be introduced by the New OHSA include the following:

Health and Safety Committees and Representatives
  • The requirement for health and safety committees and representatives to be on worksites with multiple employers and a prime contractor, such as construction sites, will be removed[4]:
    • Prime contractors will be required to have a contact to coordinate health and safety issues between employers and workers[5]; and
    • OHS Directors can still require that a committee or representative be present on any work site[6].
Disciplinary Action Complaints
  • References to “discriminatory action complaints” in the Current OHSA will be renamed “disciplinary action complaints”[7] under the New OHSA:
    • This renaming was done to avoid confusion with a complaint filed in relation to human rights laws;
    • Disciplinary action against a worker is prohibited under the New OHSA where a worker is acting in compliance with the New OHSA, the regulations, the OHS Code or an order issued under the New OHSA[8];
        • “disciplinary action” is defined as “any action or threat of action by a person that does or would adversely affect a worker with respect to any terms or conditions of employment”[9];
        • A worker who reasonably believes he/she has been subject to disciplinary action must file a disciplinary action complaint with an OHS officer within 180 days after the alleged contravention occurs[10]; and

    • OHS officers will be permitted to dismiss complaints they deem to be of questionable merit (where a complaint is frivolous, trivial, vexatious, filed with improper motives or otherwise an abuse of process) before starting an investigation[11] under the New OHSA.
Workplace Incident Reporting Requirements
  • The definitions of, and reporting requirements for, potentially serious injuries, illnesses, or incidents in connection with worksites are clarified under the New OHSA:
    • The New OHSA requires reporting of an injury, illness, or incident in connection with a worksite to a Director as soon as possible when such injury, illness, or incident occurs[12];
      • reporting to the Director must be made by (1) the prime contractor or, (2) if there is no prime contractor, by the employer; and
      • incident reporting must include the time, place, and nature of the incident; 
    • The list of injuries, illnesses, and incidents required to be reported under the New OHSA include[13]:
      • an injury, illness, or incident that results in the death of a worker;
      • an injury, illness, or incident in which there is reason to believe the worker has been or will be admitted to a hospital beyond treatment in an emergency room or urgent care facility;
      • an unplanned or uncontrolled explosion, fire or flood that causes a serious injury or illness or that has the potential of causing a serious injury or illness;
      • the collapse or upset of a crane, derrick or hoist; and
      • the collapse or failure of any component of a building or structure necessary for the structural integrity of the building or structure.

Dangerous Work Refusals
  • The definitions of, and rules regarding, dangerous work refusals for undue hazards[14] are expanded upon/clarified in the New OHSA such that:
    • a worker may refuse to work or to do particular work at a work site if the worker believes on reasonable grounds that there is an undue hazard at the work site or that the work constitutes an undue hazard to the worker’s health and safety or to the health and safety of another worker or another person[15];
      • the definition of “undue hazard” in relation to any occupation under the New OHSA includes a hazard that poses a serious and immediate threat to the health and safety of a person[16];
  • a worker who refuses to work or to do particular work must promptly report (1) the refusal and (2) the reasons for it (the “Work Refusal Report”) to the worker’s employer or supervisor or to another person designated by the employer or supervisor[17];
  • a worker exercising a right to refuse to work or to do particular work must ensure, as far as it is reasonable to do so, that the refusal does not endanger the health and safety of any other person[18];
  • an employer who receives a Work Refusal Report must inform the joint health and safety committee, if there is one, or the health and safety representative, if there is one, of the Work Refusal Report[19]; and
  • the employer who receives a Work Refusal Report must either (1) address/remedy the alleged undue hazard or (2) immediately inspect the alleged undue hazard[20].

Radiation Protection Provisions
  • Radiation protection provisions will be incorporated into the New OHSA.

 

An overview of the main changes to be introduced by the New OHSA can also be found here.

As this is a significant overhaul of the current occupational health and safety legislation in Alberta, we recommend that employers consult with an experienced employment lawyer for legal advice on how the changes in the New OHSA will apply to their specific circumstances and workplace.

Carscallen LLP'S Employment, Labour and Human Rights Expertise

Whether you are an employee or an employer, Carscallen’s experienced team of Employment, Labour and Human Rights lawyers can assist you. Our lawyers specialize in practical, individualized advice to help you understand your rights, duties and responsibilities as an employer or an employee.

Our team of lawyers provide tailored, proactive advice to help successfully navigate every stage of the employment relationship. We have the legal expertise to help minimize problems and disputes before they happen, as well as the ability to resolve conflict quickly and constructively when it arises.

Please contact any member of our Employment, Labour and Human Rights team if you have any questions about the expected new provincial OHS legislation, recent changes to any OHS-related or other employment law questions you may have.

 

*This update is intended for general information only on the subject matter and is not to be taken as legal advice.

 

[1] Occupational Health and Safety Act, SA 2017, c O-2.1.

[2] Occupational Health and Safety Act, SA 2020 cO-2.2 [New OHSA].

[3] Ensuring Safety and Cutting Red Tape Act, 2020, SA 2020, c 32, online: https://www.qp.alberta.ca/Documents/AnnualVolumes/2020/ch32_2020.pdf.

[4] New OHSA, Part Two, ss. 13-16.

[5] New OHSA, s. 10(7)(b).

[6] New OHSA, s. 13(1)(b), 14(1)(b).

[7] New OHSA, s. 18.

[8] New OHSA, s. 1(j).

[9] New OHSA, Part Three, ss. 17-19.

[10] New OHSA, s. 19(1).

[11] New OHSA, s. 19(3).

[12] New OHSA, s. 33(1).

[13] New OHSA, s. 33(2).

[14] New OHSA, Part Three, ss. 17-18.

[15] New OHSA, s. 17(2).

[16] New OHSA, s. 17(1).

[17] New OHSA, s. 17(4).

[18] New OHSA, s. 17(3).

[19] New OHSA, s. 17(5).

[20] New OHSA, s. 17(8).

Topics: Employment, Labour and Human Rights Law

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