Quebec’s Bill 59: An Act to Modernize the Occupational Health and Safety Regime Receives Royal Assent
On October 6, 2021, Quebec’s Bill 59: An Act to Modernize the Occupational Health and Safety Regime received royal assent. This bill amends multiple pieces of legislation that deal with occupational health and safety, including the Act respecting Industrial Accidents and Occupational Diseases, the Safety Code for the Construction Industry, the Act respecting Labour Standards, and the Act respecting Occupational Health and Safety. This bill has been controversial, as the United Steelworkers Union has come out against the reforms, saying “This ‘reform’ would weaken the ability of unions to force employers to ensure real prevention in the workplace … [and] compensation would be cut for injured and ill workers”. A three opposition parties voted against its passage. It will significantly alter the occupational health and safety landscape in Quebec.
Bill 59 will affect employers as well as workers. As well as amending the previously mentioned legislation, it also enacts the Regulation respecting Occupational Diseases and the Regulation respecting Prevention Mechanisms. The bill also creates the Scientific Committee on Occupational diseases (Comité scientifique sur les maladies professionelles), which will study and analyze occupational diseases and report on its findings to the Minister or to the Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST). The Regulation respecting Occupational Diseases lists contaminants and dangerous substances that employers must monitor in their workplaces. One of the amendments to the Act respecting Occupational Health and Safety lays out an obligation for the employer to take necessary measures to ensure the protection of a worker exposed to a situation of physical or psychological violence, including spousal or family violence, in the workplace.
The most substantive provisions of Bill 59 come into force on January 1, 2022, including most sections of the new regulations, while other sections come in force upon royal assent, and others not until January 1, 2023.
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