Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committees OHS Act

Don’t wait… being proactive is key!

The new OHS Act has been in effect for 10 days, life has gone on and I’m sure not too many employers have seen an actual real live officer at their work sites.   June 1st the CSSE Calgary Chapter hosted Rob Feagan, Executive Director OH&S for a lunch time session on “OHS Bill 30 Implementation Update”.  Mr. Feagan provided a packed room full health and safety professionals with the government’s expectations for compliance with the changes on June 1st.

The reason for the changes was to modernize the legislation to keep up with the needs of modern workplaces, changing technology and other jurisdictions. Changes to the current OHS Act improve the OHS system so it will better protect workers and ensure they have the same rights and protections as other Canadian workers.  As presented by Mr. Feagan, here are the significant changes of note.  Included is the full presentation given by Mr. Feagan  – OHS Implementation June 1. 

The new Act outlines new roles and responsibilities for work site parties such as supervisors, service providers, and temporary staffing agencies.  For example – supervisors must ensure and enforce the use of personal protective equipment (or PPE) at the work site.  In the past workers were ticketed by OHS.  But going forward, a supervisor or employer could receive the ticket if workers are found not to be wearing their PPE.

The government has mandated that employers establish a health and safety program at the work site where there are more than 20+ workers.  Employers with less than 20 workers must involve their workers in the assessment and control of hazard.  If your companies have a Certification of Recognition (or “COR”) you most likely will meet the requirements.

Preventing and responding to workplace harassment and violence is now the responsibility of employers and supervisors.  It is now a requirement for employers and supervisor to ensure that no worker is subjected to either in the workplace.

Worker engagement and/or involvement in the management of health and safety issues in the workplace through the provision of related information and the establishment of joint worksite health and safety committees (or “JWSHSC”) is now a requirement of employers and prime contractors.  Work sites with 20 or more workers must establish a JWSHSC.  Those smaller employers with less than 20, must identify a health and safety representative.

The new Act requires members of the JWSHSC and/or representatives receive training. The government is working on establishing the criteria for the curriculum to train and how the designated organizations will address the legislative responsibilities of employers and its training delivery.  That said, co-chairs are required to take a 2 hour online training program today as we speak.  Available through the following link. Once approved the co-chairs will need to take a further 6 hours of facilitated training to be in compliance.  Committee members will be expected to take training as well, although this has not yet been finalized.

Mr. Feagan also indicated that there has been changes to the OHS Code.   Specifically, with respect to Part 13 – Joint Work Site Health and Safety Committees,  Part 27 – Violence and Harassment, and to WHMIS requirements.  There is an expectation now through the Code to have an established Terms of Reference for the JWSHSCs and to include privacy and confidentiality in the Terms.  As for violence and harassment, employers need to take a proactive approach to achieve compliance with the changes; ensuring that supervisors, committee members, and workers are well trained and that prevention plans have been developed.

The new Act also requires employers to report Potentially Serious Incidents (or “PSIs”).  PSIs as Mr. Feagan suggested, could be a Lost Time or Medical Aid incident such that the injury sustained required medical attention beyond first aid or the incident could have caused serious injury such that a hazard was not identified in the hazard assessment or the identified hazard was not been reasonably controlled.  On the website for PSIs is an online form and/or a downloaded form that will need to be competed when reporting PSIs.   

As was indicated, things are evolving rapidly.  I would strongly recommend employers doing a gap analysis on their current policies and programs to identify what needs to be done to be in compliance and to formulate a written plan for implementation.  If an OHS Officer does drop by the work site a written plan with assigned responsibilities will go along way in terms of how the visit unfolds.   And, always recommend taking a look at the Alberta OHS website as things are being updated all the time.   If you need some professional advice or expertise, please contact me.

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