Busy year in Alberta for health and safety legislation

Province introduced new health and safety code with mandatory technical standards and workplace safety rules

So far this year, the most significant change to occupational health and safety legislation in Western Canada occurred in Alberta. The first amendment within the province came into force earlier in the year, with the addition of Section 24.1 – “Mine or Quarry Workers” to the Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Act.

This new section details the requirements that can be imposed on a worker employed at a mine or quarry by a director of inspections, medical services or occupational hygiene regarding qualification, licensing or undertaking instruction, training or supervision.

This was followed by the introduction of the Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Code (2009), which came into effect on July 1 as part of the province’s two-year review cycle process.

The code sets out the mandatory technical standards and workplace safety rules both employers and workers must comply with at workplaces under the inspection jurisdiction of the provincial government’s Workplace Health and Safety department.

However, the responsibility for overseeing the development and validity of the code is held by Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Council, which makes recommendations based on numerous consultations with the public and relevant stakeholders.

The amendments that came into force in July affect the vast majority of parts contained within the code to some degree, but significant changes were made to part 5 (confined spaces), part 6 (cranes, hoists and lifting devices), part 9 (fall protection), part 14 (lifting and handling loads), part 18 (personal protective equipment), part 19 (powered mobile equipment), part 21 (rigging), part 35 (health care and industries with biological hazards), part 36 (mining) and schedule 1, table 2 (occupational exposure limits for chemical substances).

B.C., Saskatchewan amend legislation to lesser degree

Two other Western provinces — British Columbia and Saskatchewan — have also introduced additions and amendments to occupational health and safety legislation but on a lesser scale in comparison to Alberta.

In Saskatchewan the provincial government implemented two amendments to the occupational health and safety regulations. The first amendment was to section 154 — “Trained operators for powered mobile equipment” — which introduced provisions regarding farming and ranching (March 6, 2009). The second amendment came into force on May 31, 2009, and introduced content to section 77 — “Smoking.”

British Columbia also had two legislative amendments that came into force this year. The most notable change was made to the occupational health and safety regulation, section 4.1.1 — “Snow Avalanche Assessment” — which came into effect on Sept. 1, 2009, in preparation for the upcoming winter season.

The second amendment was made to part 3 of the Workers’ Compensation Act which reflects the increased general penalties (as a result of the changes to the consumer price index) that a person may be liable to pay if convicted of an occupational health and safety offence.

Steve Jones is an Edmonton-based lead product developer for Carswell. Carswell now publishes the HATSCAN OH&S legislation HANDI-GUIDE series for Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan. These publications contain all the provincial occupational health and safety legislation, as well as a number of interpretive chapters on due diligence, which provides information to employers, supervisors, workers and safety officers to assist them in achieving an injury-free workplace. For more information, visit www.carswell.com/areasofinterest/hrandcompliance/hatscan.

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