Canada: The Introduction Of Bill 30 Brings The Potential For Significant Changes To Alberta's Workplace Laws

Last Updated: December 1 2017
Article by Cristina Wendel and Barbara B. Johnston QC

On November 27, 2017, the Government of Alberta introduced numerous proposed changes to Alberta's Occupational Health and Safety Act and Workers' Compensation Act. The proposed changes are contained in Bill 30: An Act to Protect the Health and Well-being of Working Albertans.

The key proposed changes in Bill 30 include:

Occupational Health and Safety Act

  • Clarifying and in some cases, expanding, the duties and obligations of workplace parties for health and safety.
    • The following parties would have stated obligations pursuant to the amended OHS legislation: employers, supervisors, workers, suppliers, service providers, owners, contractors, prime contractors, self-employed persons, and temporary staffing agencies.
    • Under the existing OHS legislation, only employers, workers, suppliers, contractors and prime contractors have stated obligations; thus the proposed changes would introduce new obligations to several new workplace parties.
  • Introducing new obligations to protect workers from workplace harassment and violence.
    • Employers would have the obligation to ensure that none of the employer's workers are subjected to or participate in harassment or violence at the work site.
    • Supervisors would have a similar obligation to ensure none of the workers under the supervisor's supervision are subjected to or participate in harassment or violence at the work site.
    • Workers would have the obligation to refrain from causing or participating in harassment or violence.
    • The amended OHS legislation includes definitions of "harassment" and "violence".
    • Currently, the OHS Code only requires employers to address workplace violence.
  • Changing when a prime contractor will be required.
    • The existing OHS legislation requires that there be a prime contractor for every work site where there are 2 or more employers involved in work at the work site.
    • Under the new OHS legislation, a prime contractor will be required on every construction and oil and gas work site, or a work site designated by a Director if there are 2 or more employers or self-employed persons, or one or more employers and one or more self-employed persons involved in work at the work site.
    • The changes would also now require that the prime contractor designation be made by the person in control of the work site, in writing and that the name of the prime contractor be posted in a conspicuous place at the work site. If the person in control of the work site fails to designate a prime contractor, the person in control is deemed to be the prime contractor.
  • Requiring the establishment of joint work site health and safety committees.
    • Employers who employ 20 or more workers with work that is expected to last 90 days or more, or if designated by a Director, must establish a joint work site health and safety committee.
    • Prime contractors will also be required to establish a joint work site health and safety committee for the work site where there are 20 or more workers.
    • The joint work site health and safety committee's duties would include participating in identifying hazards, developing programs, making recommendations to the employer, inspecting the work site and participating in investigations.
  • Requiring the designation of a health and safety representative.
    • Employers who employ 5-19 workers with work that is expected to last 90 days or more, or if designated by a Director, must designate a health and safety representative.
    • Prime contractors will also be required to designate a health and safety representative for the work site where there are 5-19 workers.
    • The health and safety representative would perform the same duties as the joint work site health and safety committee, in cooperation with a representative of the employer.
  • Changing the workers' duty to refuse to carry out dangerous work into a right to refuse dangerous work. Under the amended OHS legislation, the worker would be entitled to continue to be paid while the employer investigates, or the employer may temporarily reassign the worker to alternate work.
  • Providing for workers directly affected by a stop work or stop use order to continue to receive wages and benefits while the order is issued. Employers may also reassign workers to alternate work.
  • Changing the reporting and investigation requirements for workplace incidents.
    • Prime contractors and employers will be required to report injuries and incidents that result in a worker being admitted to hospital. The current requirement is limited to cases where the employer is admitted to hospital for more than 2 days.
    • Prime contractors and employers will be required to report incidents that have the potential to cause serious injury to a person at a work site (near misses). Under the existing OHS legislation, near misses had to be investigated but not reported.
  • Clarifying and expanding the powers of OHS officers inspecting work sites and investigating incidents.
  • Expanding the courts' ability to impose creative sentences, such as by adding the ability to order payment for research programs or scholarships.
  • Requiring the publication by the Minister of documents and information about employers, including data on lost time claims and fatalities, orders issued, administrative penalties issued, tickets issued to employers, and investigation reports completed by an OHS officer.
  • Requiring the review of the OHS Act every 5 years.

Workers' Compensation Act

  • Requiring the WCB to establish a Code of Rights and Conduct that sets out the rights of workers and employers in their interaction with the WCB and describes how the WCB operates in recognition of those rights.
  • Establishing the Fair Practices Office, independent of the WCB, to assist workers in navigating the WCB system.
  • Extending the time to appeal a decision to the Appeals Commission from 1 year to 2 years.
  • Removing the cap on maximum insurable earnings, currently set at $98,700 per year.
  • Improving retirement benefits available to workers.
  • Improving the benefits available for young workers who sustain an injury that results in a permanent clinical impairment of 50% or higher.
  • Improving the benefits available for surviving spouses and children following a worker's death, including the addition of a lump sum death payment.
  • Allowing the review body to grant interim relief while a decision is under review and appeal.
  • Giving the worker the power to select a physician to conduct a medical examination.
  • Providing enhanced coverage for workers in all occupations who sustain psychological injuries, including post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Adding Part 5.1 which contains obligations for employers to reinstate workers and continue to provide benefits in certain circumstances
    • This Part contains detailed provisions regarding the return to work process.
    • This Part also details a dispute resolution process through the WCB.

If passed, the majority of the amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act would come into force on June 1, 2018. Some of the amendments to the Workers' Compensation Act would come into force on January 1, 2018, with others coming into force throughout 2018, in April, September and December.

Dentons' Employment and Labour group will be monitoring the progress of this Bill and is available to assist your organization in preparing for, and navigating through these changes.

About Dentons

Dentons is the world's first polycentric global law firm. A top 20 firm on the Acritas 2015 Global Elite Brand Index, the Firm is committed to challenging the status quo in delivering consistent and uncompromising quality and value in new and inventive ways. Driven to provide clients a competitive edge, and connected to the communities where its clients want to do business, Dentons knows that understanding local cultures is crucial to successfully completing a deal, resolving a dispute or solving a business challenge. Now the world's largest law firm, Dentons' global team builds agile, tailored solutions to meet the local, national and global needs of private and public clients of any size in more than 125 locations serving 50-plus countries.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances. Specific Questions relating to this article should be addressed directly to the author.

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