Monday, January 6, 2014

Changing Landscape of Health & Safety Across Canada

As provinces across Canada beef up their health and safety regulations, so have enforcement initiatives.  From new psychological health standards to increased awareness of bullying and harassment in the workplace; increased enforcement of liability and responsibilities of managers through to workers; the landscape of health and safety is changing drastically across the country.
A question I am asked frequently is: “How do I stay informed when I am busy running a business or doing my job?”  Adding yourself to blogs and RSS feeds or newsletter email lists are just a few of the ways to stay current.  Get active in your local safety group meetings or attend health and safety conferences and tradeshows in your area. 
As business owners, mangers, supervisors and workers it is our responsibility to stay current  with workplace legislative requirements under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, just like your accountant who has to know current corporate and business filing regulations and changes to programs in order to do their job for you. 
To recap some of the changes in 2012 across the country:
Alberta:  Bill 1 streamlined the process for First Responders coverage under Workers Compensation recognizing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as work-related.  The Alberta OHS Regulations are due to expire March 2013 and have been under a rigorous review process from workers, employers and Human Services.  Bill 6 enforces stiffer penalties for employers and workers who violate Alberta Safety Laws.
British Columbia; as outlined in Worksafe BC – Changes to OHS Regulations in 2012 (these are just a few of the changes.  More than 50 changes were made to the OHS Regulations in 2012 for BC):
·         “NEW” Part 19, G19.10 (3) Electrical Safety – Energized Lighting Circuits more than 250 volts
·         “New” Part 26, G26.11 Forestry Operations and Similar Activities – New guidelines for training qualified persons to complete a danger tree risk assessment.
·         “New” Part 31 – Firefighting:  There are several new standards in regards to protective clothing and equipment for firefighters.  As well as, Part 8 under the OHS Regulations G8.11 (2)-1 Alternate safety headgear standards which accept the CSA and ANSI standards as alternate standards.
·         “New” Part 6, G6.74 - Substance Specific Requirements – Pesticide application practices
BC’s Bill 14 - Anti-Bullying and Harassment Law is in effect as of July 1st, 2012.  

Ontario’s Bill 160 has amended the OHSA.  Some of the changes entail, enforced stricter guidelines for Workers, Managers and Supervisors, enacting that they receive mandatory safety awareness training by January 1, 2014.  A new Health & Safety at Work poster is mandated in all workplaces across the province as at October 1, 2012.  A new Prevention Council was struck, holding its first meeting September 28th, 2012 addressing issues around vulnerable workers, the underground economy and small businesses.

A report found that the rate system encourages claim suppression, which encourages employers to illegally suppress workplace injuries and deny fair compensation to injured workers. The Manitoba Federation of Labour wants the province of Manitoba and the Worker’s Compensation Board to take swift action on the recommendations of the Petrie report.

Manitoba Government’s new Five Year Action Plan for Workplace Injury and Illness Prevention incorporates recommendations from three reports issued in early April as part of a wide-ranging review of workplace injury and illness prevention. Details of the plan include:
·         Doubling funding for prevention strategies
·         Creating new strategies under the Workplace Safety and Health Act that more clearly define workers’ legal rights, require mandatory orientation of new workers, and provide stronger protection when a worker refuses unsafe work
·         Making resources on health and safety information more-readily available for high school students and parents
·         Increased support for employees in high-trauma jobs
·         Providing more ways for the public to report unsafe workplaces
·         Mandatory safety orientation for new workers
·         Providing a mobile safety lab to bring safety awareness training and tools to rural worksites
·         Increasing rule enforcement to prevent violence and bullying in the workplace
·         Reviewing every death in the workplace to learn about prevention
·         Creation of  a leadership team of business owners and executives who have shown a commitment to safety and can help inform and mentor other business owners

The Worker’s Compensation Board of Manitoba plans to develop a strategy to eliminate claim suppression and inappropriate return to work practices, while ensuring employers that engage in genuine injury prevention are recognized and rewarded. This new strategy is expected in the fall of 2013.

New Brunswick will have new laws in place by mid-May to ensure hospitals buy medications only from ‘accredited, licensed or otherwise approved suppliers.  Stricter rules on compounding (the mixing of drugs on a per-patient basis) for New Brunswick as well as the rest of Canada. Anyone who compounds drugs must either: 1) Operate within a hospital. 2) If outside of a hospital, be supervised by a provincially-licensed pharmacist, or 3) Must hold a federal drug manufacturing license and adhere to the Food and Drugs Act.  The Ontario College of Pharmacists is drafting legislation to get the ability to inspect any facility where a pharmacist is employed, not just accredited pharmacies.

Effective May 15, 2013, operators of private trucks will be required to complete the following basic safety training in order to haul materials on DTI Highways projects and contracts:
·         Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Orientation
·         Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) Training
·         Work Area Traffic Control Manual (WATCM) Awareness Training

In October of 2012, WorkSafe NB made recommendations for both residential and commercial waste collection. These recommendations include:
·         Outlining responsibilities of drivers, operators, waste container owners, supervisors, and the employer.
·         Identifying standards for platforms, use of personal protective equipment, and safe handling instructions.

A recent Health Canada study found that almost 25% of homes that were tested in New Brunswick were above the recommended levels for radon. Radon is a gas that naturally forms by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. This indicates that radon could be an issue in some workplaces. Mandatory guidelines regarding maximum allowable radon levels in workplaces could come about as a result of this study. Radon is usually reduced through a piping pressurization system.

In January of 2012, WorkSafe NB was looking into creating a demerit system that would give it the authority to levy fines against companies that break rules regarding occupational health and safety, without having to go through the court system. The court process of penalizing employers for not following the rules can be lengthy and costly.

New Brunswick implemented a five-year Employment Action Plan for Persons with a Disability starting in 2012 that will make the first objective of policies and programs to support people with a disability to work to their fullest potential. This program focuses on New Brunswick residents who have a disability, and assists them in the areas of literacy, training, education, and employment.
 The Baie Verte Miners’ Registry project on the work and health history of former workers at the Baie Verte asbestos mine site will assist in the adjudication of occupational disease claims and help medical professionals and patients under care for asbestos-related illness. Consultations took place in 13 communities in Newfoundland and Labrador to review the province’s Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation System. The last consultation was April 3rd, 2013. The results and proposed amendments to workplace health and safety legislation have not been released.
-The Chief Review Commissioner of the Workplace Health, Safety, and Compensation Review Division is now a full-time role. This will reduce the backlog of appeals and make the review of workplace compensation claims more efficient.

There will be changes to the Atlantic Accord Acts to enhance and clarify regulations for offshore oil safety.

A new project will evaluate the offloading practices on crab vessels to ensure the safe and efficient operation of offloading from vessels over 35 feet in length.

Northwest Territories and Nunavut
In March of 2013, The Worker’s Safety and Compensation Commission issued a new Worker’s Handbook that explains the claims process for workers injured on the job.

The government of the Northwest Territories and the government of Nunavut found that their safety acts are outdated, unclear, fragmented, and difficult to enforce. The draft OH&S Regulations will replace all current regulations under the Safety Acts. The Nunavut and Northwest Territories acts will run in parallel to each other.

The Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission also has implemented a three-year strategic plan for 2012-2014. The main focuses in 2013 are:
·         Advancing the Safety Culture: Promotion of attitudes and values towards health and safety in Northwest Territories and Nunavut, and reducing the number of workers hurt on the job.
·         Sustaining the Workers’ Protection Fund: A fund that compensates injured employees through the payments employers make into the fund. The WSCC’s goal is to maintain the funded position at 108% to 120%.
·         Managing for Quality results: The WSCC developed service standards for all of its operations, and is committed to meeting those standards. It is also committed to enhancing organizational efficiencies and effectiveness to ensure that stakeholders receive the best possible services.

Nova Scotia through two consultation processes that impacted proposed changes to the regulations that took place in 2012 have recommended consolidation of many of the regulations under the OHSA into a new Workplace Health and Safety Regulations (WHS) with four specific areas of health and safety identified:
·         Fall protection and Scaffolding Regulations
·         Rope Access (new)
·         Temporary Workplace Traffic Control Regulations
·         Occupational Health Regulations

In addition, the WBC is seeking feedback from April 24 to May 24, 2013, on how psychological injuries should be compensated. Designed to bring Nova Scotia’s compensation for reactions to workplace stress in line with other Canadian jurisdictions.
Prince Edward Island:
In February of 2012, amendments were made to first aid regulations in Prince Edward Island. Included in the requirements are:
·         All ‘low hazard’ businesses with one or more employees are required to have at least one first aid provider with Emergency First Aid certification. Specific requirements of certification vary according to number of workers.
·         First aid kits are required for all workplaces with at least one worker per shift. Kit contents vary according to the number of workers you have.
·         First aid records must be kept when first aid is provided, and these records must be retained for three years.

In May of 2013, PEI will launch a fall protection inspection blitz. OHS Officers will be inspecting PEI workplaces with an increased focus on fall protection. Failure to comply with fall protection regulations could result in stop work orders, fines and prosecutions under the OHS Act.

On April 3, 2012, Quebec Labour Minister Lise Theriault tabled Bill 60, entitled An Act mainly to modernize the occupational health and safety plan and extend its application to domestics. This bill has been proposed but not yet implemented.  The purpose of the bill is to modernize three pieces of legislation in regards to the prevention of and provision of compensation for employment injuries. The three pieces of legislation it modernizes are: “Act respecting industrial accidents and occupational diseases”, “Code of Penal Procedure”, and “Act respecting occupational health and safety”. One of the main purposes is to extend the occupational health and safety plans of Quebec to cover domestics, which is someone whose primary duties are to perform housework, caring for or supervising a child or person who is ill, disabled, or elderly, and performing any other house worker’s tasks in the individual’s dwelling. Also involves:
*Implementing a single prevention program for all establishments, therefore requiring only a single health and safety committee, in businesses that operate two or more establishments.

Saskatchewan amended their OHSA - Saskatchewan OC 563/2012, (2012) (The Occupational Health and Safety Amendment Act, 2012)
Some of the changes include General Duties on Employers, Supervisors, Suppliers and expanded definition of a contractor under the OHSA i.e.:
·         “New” Section 3 General Duties of an Employer
·         “New” Section 3.1 General Duties of a Supervisor
·         “New” Section 6.1 General Duties of prime Contractors at certain multiple- employer worksites
·         “New” Section 8 General Duties of a Supplier
·         “New” Section 14 Duties re Policy Statement on Violence and Prevention Plan
In addition, amendments were made to Offence Procedures allowing on the spot ticketing (fines) for such offenses as failing to develop and implement a written violence policy statement – Section 14  of the OHSA = $600.00 fine and failing to ensure a workers is using proper Personal Protective Equipment Section 87 (1) (b) of the OHSA = $1000.00.

In the spring of 2013 the Yukon government has made plans to make the territory the first Canadian jurisdiction to require the installation of carbon monoxide detectors in all homes with fuel-burning appliances and/or attached garages.

In September of 2012, the Yukon court confirmed that employers have a duty to protect not only company employees from injury, but also non-workers (i.e. passers-by).

In July of 2012, the Yukon government released the Pathways to Wellness project, which educates the public on the factors influencing health and what works when it comes to improving the health and wellbeing of individuals, families, and communities.

Board of Directors of the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board released a Strategic Plan 2012-2016 designed with the goal in mind of having zero issues related to workplace injuries in the Yukon.  Some of the specifics of the plan include promotion of health and safety, fast return to work, establishing strong relationships with stakeholders, and ensuring workplaces comply with legislative requirements.

Finally, we can’t ignore the changes that are coming through the CCOHS - Canadian Standard – WHMIS with GHS.  In 2012, it came into effect in the US with implementation beginning in 2013.  The US changes which will impact Canadian regulations in the near future.  These changes in Canada are expected to take place sometime in 2013 or later.  Keep up to date on what is happening and how it will affect your workplace at:

Lynne Bard is President and Senior Consultant of Beyond Rewards Inc, a preeminent human resources, risk management, safety, health and training consulting firm based in Guelph, Ontario.  Contact Lynne at

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