As of right now, work in, to, or around a private dwelling or any land used in connection with the dwelling that is performed by an owner or occupant, or a household servant of the owner or occupant, is exempt from Alberta's occupational health and safety legislation (the "OHS legislation"). We call that the "private dwelling exemption". What it means in very simple terms, is that regardless of the work that is being performed, if it's being done in, to, or around the house, by someone that lives there, the OHS legislation doesn't apply.
On June 1, 2018 two qualifiers will be added to the private dwelling exemption.
The first applies to situations where you have a live-in nanny or caregiver. Even though they may be an occupant of the home, they are no longer caught by the exemption. They are now considered to be a worker, and you are their employer. What that means, is that if you or your friends have a live-in nanny or caregiver, congratulations, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Regulation, and potentially Code now apply to you. We say potentially with respect to the Code, because even though there's a carve-out that says the Code won't apply to "domestic workers" unless otherwise stated, there's still room to debate whether a nanny or caregiver fits within the definition of a domestic worker per se.
The second qualifier is even more significant.
It applies to situations where work that's being performed by the owner or occupant that lives there, is being done for an employer that doesn't live there. Let that sink in for a minute. What that means, is that if you are an employer and you have people that work from home or take work home with them, their home is now a "work site", and you are responsible for it just like you are for any other work site under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Regulation and Code. There's no Code exemption like there is for domestic workers.
That's obviously a huge change, and it's not getting nearly enough (or any) attention. Particularly, given that it doesn't appear to be merely an unintended consequence. On the contrary, aside from clarifying some definitions and renumbering some sections, this change to the private dwelling exemption was really the focal point of the one and only amendment that was made to Bill 30 before it passed into legislation. And, when you look at some of the other changes brought in through Bill 30, you'll see that there will now be a statutory protection in place to prevent OHS officers from just barging into private residences. That protection wasn't there before, and we would suggest that the reason it wasn't, is because there was no real possibility of that happening.
That all changes on 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.