The New OHS Act – Are you ready?

OHS OfficerOn December 15, 2017 Bill 30: An Act to Protect the Health and Well-being of Working Albertans, received Royal Assent. The bill is intended to modernize Alberta’s health and safety system to reflect modern workplaces, improve employee participation, enhance safety, and increase supports for injured workers.  The overarching changes in the bill that are of note are as follows:

  • Work site parties – this has been expanded from five work site parties to ten.
  • Joint Worksite Health and Safety Committees (JWSHSC)– requirement of all employers to establish JWSHSC where more than 20 workers exist and where there are less than 20 a Worker Health and Safety Representative is required.
  • Dangerous Work – previously refer to as the Existence of Imminent Danger and now includes Discriminatory Actions and includes rights of refusal by workers to work or to do particular work.
  • Health and Safety Programs – the new OHS Act formalizes minimum elements (11) that must be present in a health and safety program where there are 20+ workers.
  • Harassment – the Act provides obligations of the employer, worker, and supervisors that workplace parties are subjected to or participate in.
  • Appeal Process – And lastly, the body previously designated to hear appeals has be dissolved and appointments terminated.

Hats off to the government for recognizing that psychological and social well-being is a fundamental right of workers in that “every Albertan should be able to go to work and come home healthy and safe at the end of their workday.” – Christina Gray, Minister of Labour.  This is truly monumental for health and safety practitioners because now we are inclined to actually address health in our workplaces.  And not just health, but the psychological health and safety risks associated with those workplaces.  Not to mention the obligations for managing harassment and violence in those environments.

Last week the Alberta Government moved on to its next phase of public consultation and is seeking input before the OHS Act takes effect in June on the development of specific rules that need to be added in the OHS regulations regarding: harassment and violence in the workplace; and the establishment, operation, and training requirements for the joint occupational health and safety committees.   Please follow the link to review, save and email your thoughts to lbr.review@gov.ab.ca by April 9, 2018.

The focus of the legislation in my mind is not just on modernizing but additionally, the purpose of the act to establish the promotion and maintenance of the highest degree of physical, psychological and social well-being of workers.  A change from its previous focus that of the protection of physical safety.  The interesting debate among my peers is what will enforcement of the Act’s purpose look like…? How will Occupational Health and Safety Officers enforce the maintenance to the highest degree the psychological and social well-being of workers?  As we wait for the government to release further details and the interpretations of said act we can all speculate the answer…pexels-photo-585419.jpeg

So where does one start in assessing our organizations for psychological risks?  We could start by reflecting on the following statements.   *How would your organization respond to the following?

  1. Our workplace is committed to minimizing unnecessary stress at work.
  2. Immediate supervisors care about employees’ emotional well-being.
  3. Our organization makes efforts to prevent harm to employees from harassment, discrimination or violence.
  4. Employees would describe our workplace as being psychologically healthy.
  5. Our workplace deals effectively with situations that may threaten or harm employees (e.g., harassment, discrimination, violence).

How you answer these questions indicate how prepared your organization will be to comply with the intent of the new OHS Act’s purpose – promotion and maintenance of the highest degree of physical, psychological and social well-being of workers.   What you are currently doing?  Keep doing them…

For more information on what your organizations can do to ensure you can meet the intent of the new legislation from the psychological and social well-being of your workers – check out the new CAN/CSA-Z1003/BNQ9700-803/2013 Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace.   Note the new OHS Act comes into law June 1, 2018.   If you need assistance in identifying gaps between your current health and safety management system and the new Act send me an email.

* Taken from the Guarding Minds @ WORK – Documents & Resources page.

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