On November 5, 2020, the Alberta Government introduced the Ensuring Safety and Cutting Red Tape Act, 2020 (Bill 47). This Bill affected areas like health and safety committees and programs, contractors, injury reporting, disciplinary action complains, etc.
This bill also repealed the previous version of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and replaced it with an updated version, Alberta's New OHS Act. This new OHS Act came into effect on December 1, 2021, along revised versions of the OHS Regulation and OHS Code.
Notable Changes that Bill 47 and Alberta's New Occupational Health and Safety Act Introduced
The following sections cover some of the notable changes that were introduced by Bill 47 and the new OHS Act.
The New OHS Act attempts to simplify the JHSC and HSR requirements. For this reason, Joint Health and Safety Committees (JHSC) and health and safety representative (HSR) regimes are no longer required on multi-employer work sites with a prime contractor. Instead, the prime contractor shall establish a system, as well as designating an individual, that will ensure compliance with OHS laws and cooperation among employers and workers on health and safety issues.
In the new Act, the definition of self-employed persons applies to employers. It also imposes the obligations of employers onto self-employed persons, with necessary modifications.
Right to Refuse Dangerous Work
The New OHS Act states that a worker has the right to refuse dangerous work and the ability to work without being subject to disciplinary action for exercising a right or fulfilling a duty imposed by this Act. If the worker has reasonable grounds that there was a dangerous condition for them, other workers or people, at the work site they can refuse to work under a “dangerous condition”. This term was not defined by the former OHS Act.
When an injury, incident or illness occurs at a work site, the prime contractor or, if there is no prime contractor, the employer shall report the time, place and nature of the injury, illness or incident to a Director as soon as possible. The New OHS Act imposes reporting requirements for illness and exposure to radiation that exceeds the limits of the OHS Code.
Reporting of a potential serious injury or incident (PSI) is no longer required under the New OHS Act. The New Act instead will only require that an investigation be undertaken where an incident occurs that (1) had a probability of causing serious injury or illness (2) there is a reasonable cause to believe corrective action should be taken.
Disciplinary Action Complaints
Under the New OHS Act, there is a “discriminatory action complaints” section to avoid confusion with human rights. A worker who has reasonable cause to believe that the worker has been subjected to disciplinary action may file a complaint with an officer within 180 days after the alleged contravention occurs, but not afterwards. An officer may refuse to investigate a complaint where the officer is of the opinion that the complaint is without merit, or is frivolous, trivial, vexatious, filed with improper motives or otherwise an abuse of process.
More information can be found at the Government of Alberta website
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