Following a plethora of legislative changes in 2018, the Alberta government recently announced amendments to Alberta's Occupational Health and Safety Act and Workers' Compensation Act.
Changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act
Employer joint health and safety committees and safety representatives
On December 13, the Alberta government issued a director's order rescinding the requirement for worksite-based joint health and safety committees (JHSC) or safety representatives. Effective January 31, 2020, employers will only be required to establish one JHSC or safety representative regardless of how many worksites an employer operates, provided the threshold of workers and length of work is met.
Occupational health and safety officers will still retain the ability to order an employer to form a JHSC or elect a safety representative at any location where they think one is required. Unionized workplaces with JHSCs written into their collective agreements will be unaffected until their agreements expire.
JHSC and safety representative mandatory training
Government-approved training is mandatory for JHSC co-chairs and worker representatives under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The number of training courses will be reduced from two to one in an effort to reduce repetitive content and time spent away from work. This change is effective immediately.
Changes to the Workers Compensation Act
Bill 206: the Workers' Compensation (Enforcement of Decisions) Amendment Act, 2019, a private member's bill seeking to amend Alberta's Workers' Compensation Act, was moved forward past a second reading and past presentation to the committee of the whole late last month.
If passed, Bill 206 would give workers who are injured on the job the ability to apply to the Court of Queen's Bench if the Workers' Compensation Board has not implemented a decision within the time prescribed or in a timely manner. The bill would also grant the court the power to award the applicant costs incurred from making the application, including solicitor-client costs.
Bill 206 is expected to receive royal assent sometime in early 2020.
The OHS Act amendments are a welcome adjustment for employers – while continuing to support safe workplaces and upholding workers' rights to participate in health and safety on the job, these changes effectively reduce the administrative burden previously faced by employers under the former legislation.
We still expect to see more changes to Alberta's workplace laws in 2020. We will provide further updates as changes are introduced and implemented.
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