Bill 30: An Act to Protect the Health and Well-Being of Working Albertans ("Bill 30" or the "Bill") was introduced in the legislature yesterday. You can read the Government of Alberta's official summary of the proposed changes introduced by the Bill here: https://www.alberta.ca/ohs-changes.aspx, and view the full version of the Bill here: https://t.co/zpsoNtbz7q.
Without delving too far into what the changes will mean for Alberta's existing OHS legislation (except to state that they are aplenty), there are a few things that immediately stand out:
- There was always an ability to refuse unsafe work. That now changes from a "duty" (i.e. shall) when facing an "imminent danger" (defined), to a "right" (i.e. may) when facing "dangerous conditions" (not defined). Ironically (and unfortunately), the change seemingly waters down the protection. And, the lack of a definition is going to prove problematic;
- The changes give a lot more power to OHS officers. They'll now be able to order reinstatement, payment of wages, etc. when dealing with discriminatory action complaints (formerly disciplinary action complaints) instead of that power being vested in the OHS Council (which itself is set to be disbanded in favor of the Labour Relations Board);
- There's a presumption in Bill 30 that means it's no longer necessary for a worker to prove a causal connection between an act of compliance and discriminatory action. Causal connection is now presumed, and the onus is on the employer to disprove it's existence;
- The general duty on employers in Bill 30 extends beyond protecting the health, safety, and welfare of workers, and includes "other persons at or in the vicinity of the work site who may be affected by hazards originating from the work site"; and
- As an "owner", you'll have responsibilities outside of just "prime contractor". (Prime is now who is in control of the work site, not who is the owner). In other words, if you're an owner the OHS legislation will apply to you even if you aren't the prime contractor - although you can still assign your obligations as owner to another party.
Once passed (which we fully expect it will be, with or without some tweaking), the changes will take effect June 1, 2018. Find out what that means for you by joining our Friday Morning Muster, where we'll be discussing the new legislation further in the coming weeks.