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This is the final article in our three-part series on recent changes to Alberta’s labour and employment legislation. Here we outline changes to Alberta’s occupational health and safety (“OHS”) and workers’ compensation legislation resulting from Bill 30: An Act to Protect the Health and Well-being of Working Albertans.

See here for our first article on employment standards changes and here for our second article on changes to the labour relations regime.

Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”)

Alberta had not undertaken a comprehensive review of its OHS legislation since it was enacted in 1976. The new OHSA comes into force on June 1, 2018. Wide-reaching changes were made including providing for basic rights for workers and instituting the principle that everyone in the workplace is responsible for health and safety – these and other key changes are summarized below.

 Basic rights for workers
Right to refuse dangerous work A worker may refuse work if he/she believes on reasonable grounds that there is a dangerous condition at the work site or that the work constitutes a danger to the worker’s health and safety or to the health and safety of another worker or another person.
Right to know Employers must make available all health and safety information (i.e., information that may affect the health and safety of a person at a work site, including information about worksite hazards, hazard controls and work practices and procedures) and the OHSA, regulations and OHS code.
Right to participate Workers are entitled to participate in health and safety committees. For any work lasting 90 days or more, larger employers (20+ workers) are required to have a joint worksite health and safety committee and smaller employers (5-19 workers) are required to have a health and safety representative. Employers may seek approval from an OHS Director (appointed under the OHSA) to use an alternative approach to meeting these requirements.
Responsibilities of the worksite parties
Employers Ensure the health, safety and welfare of workers and the public; provide competent supervisors, training workers, and prevent violence and harassment; and work with the joint worksite health and safety committee or health and safety representative.
Supervisors Legally responsible for OHS, and preventing violence and harassment.
Workers Protect their own and others’ health and safety at worksites and refrain from violence and harassment.
Contractors Ensure that work under their control does not endanger health and safety (prime contractors are required in construction, oil and gas worksites or any other projects designated by an OHS Director and have added responsibilities to ensure worker health and safety).
Worksite owners Ensure that property under their control does not endanger health and safety.
Suppliers Ensure their products are safe to use, include user instructions for all equipment (including leased equipment), and provide a notice when their product or equipment doesn’t comply with applicable laws.
Service providers Ensure the services they provide comply with applicable laws, are provided by a competent person and do not create a hazard.
Self-employed persons Ensure they do not create a hazard to others and comply with OHS laws.
Temporary staffing agencies Comply with OHS laws and ensure worker health and safety.
Program and practice
Health and safety program Larger employers (20+ workers) must develop a written health and safety program and review the program every 3 years. Smaller employers (less than 20 workers) must involve workers in hazard assessment and control.
Reporting serious injuries, incidents and fatalities Employers must notify the Alberta government when a serious injury, incident or fatality occurs to ensure a proper investigation ensues. Whenever a hospital admission is required, the employer must report.
Compliance and enforcement
Stop-work orders Enforcement officers may issue stop-work orders to employers with multiple worksites. Where such an order is issued, the workers must still be paid their normal pay and benefits – sale, rental, lease or transfer of equipment is also prohibited at this time.
Offences and penalties The types of offences have been expanded and more options have been provided for creative sentencing. While the fines and penalties have remained unchanged, courts may now direct offenders to direct payment to health and safety training, order research on preventative medicine, and direct creative remedies.

Workers’ Compensation Act (“WCA”)

The Workers’ Compensation Board (“WCB”) compensates injured workers for lost income and for health care and other costs associated with work-related injuries. Through amendments to the WCA, numerous modifications to support workers were made to the WCB system. In particular, employers should be aware of the following changes.

Reinstating and accommodating injured workers Reinstatement will be required for a worker unable to work as a result of an accident if the worker has at least 12 months of continuous employment at time of the accident, subject to certain exceptions. The employer must accommodate the work or the workplace to the needs of the worker unless the accommodation would cause undue hardship. In addition, the WCB must notify the Alberta Human Rights Commission (“AHRC”) if an accommodation matter is being dealt with by the WCB. It remains to be seen whether the director appointed under the Alberta Human Rights Act will exercise its jurisdiction to refuse to deal with a complaint made to the AHRC, if the matter is being or has been dealt with by the WCB. These provisions come into force on September 1, 2018.
Psychological injuries If a worker is exposed to a traumatic event during the course of his or her employment and is diagnosed with a psychological injury by a physician or psychologist, the psychological injury will be presumed to be a workplace injury – this provision comes into effect on April 1, 2018.
Medical examinations Injured workers will have a greater choice in selecting a physician for a medical examination – this provision does not yet have a coming into force date.
Fair Practices Office Workers will have access to the Fair Practices Office for assistance in managing their claims as of September 1, 2018.

       Many thanks to Ben Sakamoto for his assistance in drafting this article.