Before the Babine and Lakeland sawmill disasters in 2012,
employers were already under an obligation to investigate any
workplace incident involving serious injury or death, major
structural failure or collapse, major release of a hazardous
substance, a blasting accident that caused personal injury, a
dangerous incident involving explosive, a diving accident, any
accident or other incident that resulted in injury to a worker
requiring medical treatment, and any near misses.
Now, as a result of amendments to the Workers'
Compensation Act (WCA), following Royal Assent to Bill C-9 on May 14, 2015, the manner in which
employers carry out such investigations has been regulated as a
mandatory two-phase process. Employers must now complete a
preliminary investigation within the first 48 hours of the incident
and a full investigation within 30 days. In addition, on-the-spot
financial penalties may be assessed against employers for certain
violations of the WCA and the threshold and obligations
regarding work-stop orders has been expanded. A summary of the
legislative changes pursuant to Bill C-9 can be found here.
On May 27, 2015, WorkSafeBC's Board of Directors approved
interim policies to govern employers' compliance with the new
investigation requirements under the amended WCA. Details
regarding the policy requirements for the preliminary investigation
can be found here, and for the full investigation here. A summary of the changes under the
WCA and the operation of the interim policies can be found
WorkSafeBC is also seeking stakeholder input regarding its
discussion paper and proposed changes to work-stop orders under the
WCA. As stated in the discussion paper,
Changes to the
[WCA], effective May 14, 2015, expand
the criteria and lower the threshold for issuing stop work orders.
The changes also allow WorkSafeBC to stop work or prevent working
from starting at multiple locations for an employer ("stop
operations") where similar unsafe conditions are likely to
exist at the other locations.
Employers are encouraged to review the discussion paper and
proposed changes and to weigh in with comments, here.
The British Columbia Employers' Advisers Office expects to
have final policies regarding employers' investigation
obligations in place by the end of December 2015. We will keep you
posted on new developments.
Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
A former teacher at Bodwell High School has learned a valuable lesson from the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal— it is not discriminatory for an employer to offer child-related benefits to only employees with children.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
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