There will be some major changes happening this year in Occupational Health and Safety, as well as in the Workers Compensation Board, which will mean big changes for all companies. Bill 30: An Act to Protect the Health and Well-being of Working Albertans, is scheduled to take effect on June 1, 2018. The bill passed its second reading on December 11, 2017 and received Royal Assent on December 15, 2017. The purpose of Bill 30 is to improve worker safety, modernize workplace standards and practices, better align Alberta’s standards with the rest of Canada and to provide greater compensation and benefits to injured workers and their families. We have summarized the changes that will be made to both OHS and WCB to help clarify the proposed changes.
Occupational Health and Safety Changes with Bill 30
With the proposed changes, employers will be taking on more responsibility to ensure the health and safety of all of their workers. These proposed changes will ensure that workers are better protected by ensuring that Albertans have the same rights and protection as other Canadians and would encourage workers to participate in health and safety activities. Due to these proposed changes, companies will be required to update their health and safety management systems to incorporate these new laws. The changes proposed in Bill 30 will accomplish the following:
- Ensure the three basic rights of workers in Alberta’s legislation:
- The right to refuse unsafe work. The proposed changes protect workers from any form of reprisal for exercising this right, including loss of compensation or benefits.
- The right to know. The proposed changes ensure workers are informed about potential hazards and have access to basic health and safety information in the workplace.
- The right to participate. The proposed changes ensure workers are involved in health and safety discussions, including participation in health and safety committees.
- Mandate joint work site health and safety committees for workplaces with 20 or more employees.
- Require employers with between five and 19 workers to have a health and safety representative in the workplace and ensure all workers participate in the development of hazard assessments.
- Clarify roles and responsibilities of workplace parties for health and safety, including the obligations of employers, supervisors, workers, owners, prime contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, service providers, self-employed persons and temporary staffing agencies.
- Protect workers from workplace violence and harassment. This includes new legislative definitions as well as outlining the responsibility of employers and supervisors to prevent workplace violence and harassment, and workers to refrain from these activities.
- Protect workers from loss of wages or benefits on worksites subjected to stop work or stop use orders or while safety improvements are being made.
- Require employers to report “near miss” incidents to OHS. A “near miss” incident is one that had the potential to cause serious injury or incident.
- Expand the ability of the courts to impose creative sentences, such as providing funding for research on preventative medicine or health and safety training programs.
- Require the government to publish more information collected during compliance and enforcement activities, including the results of OHS investigations.
- Require OHS laws be reviewed every five years to ensure they remain relevant to modern and changing workplaces.
Workers’ Compensation Board Changes with Bill 30
The proposed changes in Bill 30 would improve the WCB system in such a way that it would provide greater benefits to workers to support their return to work. It would also mean that WCB premiums remain sustainable and affordable to employers. The changes proposed in Bill 30 will accomplish the following:
- Establish an independent Fair Practices Office that helps Albertans navigate the WCB system by providing additional resources to support workers through step of the process.
- Establish a Code of Rights and Conduct that outlines the rights of workers and employers, while also explaining how WCB staff would recognize these rights and conduct.
- Remove the maximum insurable earnings cap of $98,700 per year, allowing injured workers to receive benefits in line with their expected annual earnings.
- Improve benefits for:
- Surviving spouses and children when a worker is killed on the job.
- Young workers who sustain a long-term injury that affects their career opportunities.
- Improve retirement benefits for injured workers to better recognize the impact on an injured worker’s retirement savings.
- Provide an option for interim relief while decisions are under review and appeal, helping to reduce potential hardship while disputed claims are being reviewed or awaiting appeal.
- Provide greater choice for injured workers in selecting health professionals.
- Enhance coverage for psychological injuries, including post-traumatic stress disorder, for all occupations where workers have experienced a traumatic incident at work.
- Require employers to continue providing health benefit programs to injured workers under existing coverage for one year after the date of the injury.
- Establish an Occupational Disease and Injury Advisory Committee that would review occupational diseases, and provide advice on emerging trends in medical science.
- Continue to allow the WCB to determine how the Accident Fund is used.
- Introduce an obligation for employers to support the “return to work” of workers who suffer injuries and illnesses in their workplaces. Employers will have a duty to accommodate workers to the point of undue hardship.
For more information on Bill 30, how it will affect your company, and for assistance in making changes in your health and safety program to reflect the new changes, please feel free to give us a call at 780-473-4772. We would be more than happy to assist you with all your health and safety needs!