On October 6, 2021, the Act to Modernize the occupational health and safety regime (Bill 59) received Royal Assent.
The purpose of this bill is to modernize the occupational health and safety regime with regard to prevention of and compensation for employment injuries. This bill is the first major update of the Act respecting occupational health and safety (AOHS) and it will amend or repeal various regulations.
Employers will have time to ensure they are compliant with Bill 59, before it enters into force on 2022, or even later.
Imminent Changes Requiring Immediate Employer Action
In the following section we will discuss the most significant changes impacting employers starting April 6, 2022.
i. The Prevention Program
In accordance with section 58, an employer who employs workers in more than one establishment where activities of the same nature are carried on may prepare and implement a single prevention program for all or part of the establishments. The prevention program must Regulation respecting prevention programs and various other applicable regulations
The prevention program must take into account all the activities carried on in the establishments and apply for a period of not less than three years. Every employer must prepare and implement a prevention program specific to each establishment employing at least 20 workers during the year, subject to the regulations. It will also be required to implement a prevention program if the establishment has less than 20 workers performing “risk level” activities as determined by regulation.
Even though the government has not provided a template for the prevention program, in preparing its prevention program, the employer must give precedence to the following hierarchy of prevention measures:
(1) eliminating the risk;
(2) replacing materials, processes or equipment in order to eliminate or reduce the risk;
(3) implementing technical control measures regarding the risk associated with the work environment and equipment, such as installing a ventilation system and adding a safety guard on a machine;
(4) installing signals, such as a sound alarm or a warning light, to increase workers’ awareness of the risk;
(5) implementing administrative control measures regarding the risk, such as worker training and the use of safe working methods and techniques; and
(6) putting collective or individual protective means and equipment at the workers’ disposal, and implementing measures to ensure that they are properly used and maintained.
ii. Health and Safety Committee
Bill 59 now provides that establishments with 20 workers or more must establish a health and safety committee to fulfill the obligations that the health and safety committee will determine upon agreement between the employers, the certified association and the workers. The health and safety committee will revise the number of its members on the basis of the number of workers in the establishment at the beginning of each year.
The employer shall designate at least one member on the committee and he may designate as many members as there are workers’ representatives on the committee.”. It should include at least two members: one representing the workers, the other representing the employer (if the establishment employs from 10-50 workers). More worker representatives could be added to the committee if it exceeds 50 workers and depending on the total number of workers.
iii. Health and Safety Representatives
Once the health and safety committee is established, a health and safety representative must be designed by the workers. The health and safety representative must, within 120 days after being designated, obtain a certificate for at least seven hours of theoretical training issued by the Commission or by a person or body recognized by it.
The representative’s role, functions and responsibilities, include: recommendations to the health and safety committee concerning the psychosocial risks related to the work; inspection of workplaces; assistance to workers in the exercise of their rights; the representative’s role during an inspector’s visit; intervention when a worker exercises a right of refusal; complaints to the Commission; accident investigation and analysis of reported incidents; and identification and analysis of the risks that may affect the health and safety of the establishment’s workers.
Other Relevant Amendments for Employers
i. Right to Reinstatement
The Commission may, in collaboration with the worker and the employer, implement measures with the employer that favour the worker’s reinstatement. On accepting a claim for an employment injury and before the consolidation of the injury, the Commission may grant the worker rehabilitation measures. It shall assist by developing the worker´s capacity to gradually resume the tasks involved in their employment, equivalent employment or suitable employment.
ii. Violence Prevention
The employer has the obligation to take the necessary measures in the workplace to protect workers exposed to physical or psychological violence, including spousal or sexual violence.
the AOHS applies to teleworking, subject to any inconsistent provisions.
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