2018 was a big year for Canadian health and safety. There were several policy changes including an overhaul of Alberta’s Bill C 30, the first major update to Alberta workplace health and safety legislation in 30 years. There were several important legal cases involving major business and OHS programs including one case which found the “owner” of a work site personally responsible for a fatal incident.
Undoubtedly the issue which has received the most attention in OHS news is:
1. Cannabis Legalization
October 17th was the day which changed a lot of things for the Canadian public. The legalization of cannabis across Canada has created a lot of concerns surrounding workplace safety and complications surrounding medicinal use. Policies, procedures and statements of workplace expectations became a necessity for employers across the nation.
The concern is focused on impairment at work. This is a legitimate concern that sent teams everywhere into overdrive to create a reliable testing process.
The date of legalization is just a beginning of a long process to perfect how we regulate, control and support the safe use of cannabis and how this affects our workplace policies and processes.
2. Mental Stress recognition for Workers compensation coverage
Workers compensation expands coverage to mental stress related disorders including PTSD. This coverage is a real manifestation of the evolution of workplace safety as it moves to be more preventative by targeting mental health and psychological well-being. This transition is likely to continue into the new year and it won’t be surprising to see more movement toward anti-stress and mental health related precautions.
In the past mental stress would only be covered if it was proven to be a result of a traumatic event. It is obvious and finally covered for long term mental stress that develops over time. This is much more common for mental stress developed in the workplace and should make it easier to receive coverage for stress related to harassment.
3. Manitoba’s Move to standardize OHS Policies
Manitoba pioneered the move in Canada to present a national standard for Health and Safety policy. If other provinces follow this could lead to a much smoother and less complex foundation for those companies operating inter-provincially. In 2015 the chemical handling started a move toward globally ‘harmonized system” which standardized the labeling and procedures for chemical processes. There has been talk for a while of following this path for health and safety policy and Manitoba’s move could cause provinces to follow suite which is a step in the global direction, or at least a national one.
4. ALBERTA SAFETY LAWS
On June 1, Alberta introduced a new bill in the hopes of improving the protection of working Albertans. This bill replaced the Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Act.
Bill 30 made changes to ensure workers rights and clarify responsibility, it revised harassment policy, tightened its reigns on health and safety programs and accounted for the size of the company in regards to the requirements. Other changes were focused on PPE, wages, stop work orders, and right to refuse unsafe work.
5. MANSLAUGHTER CONVICTION
The trial of Sylvain Fournier was the first of its kind handing out a 18 month prison sentence on a conviction of manslaughter under the criminal code. A work site death involving a trench to replace a sewer line was found to be related to compliance with safety standards.
This case is not only a somber reminder that the work being done in heavy industries is often dangerous and should be taken seriously. It is also a very real wake up call to owners and employers that the safety of their workers is the responsibility of the worker and the employer. The employer could be held personally liable for preventable incidents.
This is a brief retrospective of 2018 and things are happening in the Health and safety world. Be sure to keep up to date your health and safety news and programming. Onsite Safety Management is your source for workplace health and safety services in Southern Alberta.