Improving safety for Alberta workers and cutting red tape

Chad Grasza
20.11.20 08:40 AM Comment(s)

Overview


Bill 47: Ensuring Safety and Cutting Red Tape Act, 2020 would amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Radiation Protection Act and the Workers’ Compensation Act to simplify language and remove unnecessary barriers for job creators without making substantive changes to workers’ rights and protections.


If passed, Bill 47 will bring balance to workplaces and help ensure workers can rely on a sustainable compensation system if they get ill or injured on the job.


Reducing red tape would support Alberta’s economic recovery by helping attract new investment opportunities and getting people back to work.


Bill 47’s amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHS Act) and the Workers’ Compensation Act will:
  • Remove duplication and redundancy throughout the OHS Act.
  • Ensure a balanced approach to enable job creators to find and develop a skilled workforce while improving the health, safety and rights of workers.
  • Remove prescriptive elements brought in by the previous government, improve flexibility for job creators and better align Alberta with other jurisdictions


Improving worker safety through the OHS Act

Changes to the OHS system will remove duplication and streamline laws to support workplace health and safety. This includes:

  • Adding flexibility for health and safety committees and representatives for work sites with multiple employers and a prime contractor, such as construction sites.
  • Streamlining complaint and appeal processes.
  • Incorporating the Radiation Protection Act into the OHS Act will make health and safety laws clearer and easier for job creators and workers to find and follow.


To help inform these changes, Alberta’s government engaged with job creators, workers and health and safety professionals to get their ideas for improvements. In July 2020, government received 320 responses from an online survey on occupational health and safety, and 81 written responses on the workers’ compensation system from key industry, employer, labour and medical representatives.


If passed, changes to the OHS Act would come into force on Sept. 1, 2021.


Creating an affordable, sustainable workers’ compensation system


The revised workers’ compensation system will help Alberta’s workplaces be competitive and support the province’s economic recovery by improving processes, cutting red tape and reducing costs. This includes:

  • Transitioning fairness reviews, appeals advisory services and medical panels from the Fair Practices Office and Medical Panels Office to other organizations will remove duplication and save about $2.25 million per year.
  • Clarifying presumptive coverage for psychological injuries for firefighters, police officers, peace officers, paramedics, corrections officers and emergency dispatchers.
  • Enabling the WCB to calculate cost of living adjustments for compensation benefits.


If passed, most changes to the Workers’ Compensation Act will take effect Jan. 1, 2021. Changes affecting the Fair Practices Office and Medical Panels Office will take effect by April 1, 2021.


Alberta’s Recovery Plan is a bold, ambitious long-term strategy to build, diversify, and create tens of thousands of jobs now. By building schools, roads and other core infrastructure we are benefiting our communities. By diversifying our economy and attracting investment with Canada’s most competitive tax environment, we are putting Alberta on a path for a generation of growth.

 


Key changes :

If passed, Bill 47 will update the following legislation:


Occupational Health and Safety Act

  • Removing duplication and redundancy throughout the act to make it easier to understand and follow for job creators and workers.
  • Removing the requirement for health and safety committees and representatives to be on work sites with multiple employers and a prime contractor, such as construction sites
    • Prime contractors will be required to have a contact to coordinate health and safety issues between employers and workers
    • Occupational health and safety directors will still be able to require a committee or representative be present on any work site
  • Renaming discriminatory action complaints to ‘disciplinary action complaints’ to avoid confusion with human rights laws
    • Allowing occupational health and safety officers to dismiss complaints of questionable merit before starting an investigation
  • Clarifying definitions and reporting requirements of potentially serious incidents
  • Clarifying rules and definitions around dangerous work refusals to make it easier to follow so that serious health and safety concerns can be resolved more quickly


Radiation Protection Act

  • Incorporating radiation protection laws into the Occupational Health and Safety Act to provide clarity for employers and workers and make them easier to follow


Workers’ Compensation Act

We are reversing some of the costly changes made in 2018 to ensure programs and services remain sustainable and affordable, including:

  • Reinstating an insurable earnings cap for injured and ill workers
  • Limiting  presumptive coverage for psychological injuries to firefighters, police officers, peace officers, correctional officers, paramedics and emergency dispatchers
    • Other types of workers still have access to coverage for work-related psychological injuries through the normal claim process
  • Returning the Workers’ Compensation Board’s responsibility to calculate cost of living adjustments, rather than basing them automatically on the Alberta consumer price index
  • Restoring a voluntary system for reinstating an injured worker
  • Maintaining injured workers’ right to choose a physician for a medical exam
  • Removing the requirement for employers to contribute to health benefit plans for injured workers who are off work
  • Continuing to allow the Workers’ Compensation Board to have oversight of the Accident Fund to address the needs of injured workers and employers
  • Moving services provided by the Fair Practices Office and the Medical Panels Office to other organizations to reduce duplication and save money

 

See Fact Sheet on Changes to Workers Compensation


Next steps

If passed, most changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act will take effect September 1, 2021. Most changes to the Workers’ Compensation Act would take effect January 1, 2021. Changes affecting the Fair Practices Office and Medical Panels Office would take effect April 1, 2021.

 

Bill 47: the Ensuring Safety and Cutting Red Tape Act, 2020 would establish the Heroes’ Fund to recognize the sacrifices of first responders who die as a result of performing their duties.


If passed, the act will provide a one-time, tax-free payment of $100,000 to eligible families. This funding recognizes the noble service of first responders, while providing support to grieving families.