Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Regulations Guide

For any organization, ensuring the health and safety of its workforce is of paramount importance, not just for adhering to the law and regulation but also for ensuring the smooth functioning of the organization. In Alberta, there is a shared responsibility between the employer and employee to ensure a healthy and safe work environment. In Alberta, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Regulation, and Code (hereinafter referred to as “OHS”) sets out the legal framework to achieve and maintain health and safety standards at workplaces.

Alberta Human Resources and Employment (AHRE) are the administrators of this legislation and Occupational Health and Safety Officers are the enforcers. 

This article aims to serve as a comprehensive guide and to provide a basic understanding of these laws.  

Overview of the Legal Framework

  1. Occupational Health and Safety Act – This Act sets out standards for the health and safety of workers and gives authority to the officers to inspect sites and enforce these standards. It also defines the rights and obligations of the owner, employer, employee, workers, suppliers, and contractor. 
  2. Occupational Health and Safety Regulation- These regulations further detail the specific requirements for various workplace activities. 
  3. Occupational Health and Safety Code- The code sets out the technical standards, rules, and best practices to implement the Act and Regulations. 

Applicability of this Act 

The OHS in general applies to all workers and employers however there are certain exceptions to the application. The act does not apply to:-

  1. Anyone who works in their private residence. 
  2. Any Domestic worker working in a private dwelling such as nannies, housekeepers, etc. 
  3. Farmers, ranchers, and agricultural workers. 
  4. Federal government employees and workers working in federally regulated industries. 

Work Parties covered by OHS Legislation

As discussed above, having a healthy and safe environment is the responsibility of each and every person working on the work site. Thereby, Alberta’s OHS legislation defines all these parties and their obligations toward the common goal of a healthy and safe environment. 

  1. Employer 
  2. Worker
  3. Supervisor
  4. Prime Contractor 
  5. Supplier 
  6. Service Provider 
  7. Owner

Now, let’s discuss these work parties in detail.

Employer guideline

  • Who is an Employer? 

Employer- As per the OHS legislation you are an employer if you:

  1. employ one or more worker 
  2. are designated to represent the employer 
  3. are responsible for overseeing the health and safety of the workers or 
  4. are self-employed. 
  • General Obligations of Employers  
  1. Maintain the equipment in safe working order to prevent accidents and ensure safety. 
  2. Label dangerous chemicals properly and store them with caution. 
  3. Ensure that workers comply with the legislation while carrying out their duties. 
  4. Get workers trained properly so that they can perform their tasks safely and effectively. 
  5. Create awareness by informing workers about any potential hazards present at the job site and take appropriate precautionary measures. 
  6. Ensure that the workers are being supervised by competent supervisors who are familiar with the OHS legislation 
  7. Collaborate with the joint health and safety committee and representative, and any person working under the OHS legislation. 
  8. Resolve as quickly as possible any issues raised by workers, and supervisors, and join the health and safety committee and representative. 
  9. Monitor regularly workers exposed to specific risks such as chemicals, excessive noise, heavy machinery, etc, and also ensure their well-being. 
  10.  Keep health and safety information readily available describing the hazards, controls, work practices, and procedures.   
  11. Report critical incidents as listed in the act to the nearest Workplace Health and Safety office as soon as possible. These critical incidents are:
    1. Incident of injury and accident leading to death on workplace premises. 
    2. Any incident of injury or accident that required the worker to be admitted to the hospital for more than 2 days. 
    3. Incidents of explosion, fire, flood, or any other incident that had the potential of causing serious injury. 
    4. Incidents that involve the collapse or malfunction of cranes, derricks, or hoists within the workplace.
    5. Any collapse or failure of any structural component integral to the building or structure’s stability and safety.

Worker Guidelines

  • Who is a Worker? 

A worker is any person who is engaged with any organization providing their services this will include any volunteer supplying services to the organization. 

  • Worker’s Responsibilities 
  1. Do not accept any task that may pose a threat to their life or if they are not competent to perform such work. 
  2. Wear safety gear and safety equipment that the employer requires them to wear. 
  3. Utilize safety devices such as machine guards and never try to take them off or modify them in any way. 
  4. Promptly report any incident of hazard in the workplace. 
  5. Actively engage in training programs for safe operation of equipment and safety protocols. 
  • Worker’s Right  
  1. The right to a safe workplace- This implies that the employer needs to conduct a hazard assessment to identify actual and potential threats and remedy them as well. 
  2. The right to know- The worker has a right to know if there are any hazards at the workplace, the employer must provide all the information about the job and the hazards associated with it. 
  3. Right to refuse to work- This right might seem a little weird but it is recognized by the OHS Act. This is a right and a duty for a worker if a worker sees any imminent danger to health and safety they must refuse to do such a job and they must also inform the employer and give reasons for the refusal. Another important aspect is that the refusal is well within their rights and if such an employee is terminated for such refusal he or she can file a complaint with an OHS officer. 

Other work parties covered under OHS 

  1. Supervisor- Any person who has authority over one or more workers and is in charge of the worksite. The obligation of the supervisor is very similar to the employer. The only difference is that the supervisor works more closely with the workers. 
  2. Prime ContractorThe role of the prime contractor is to coordinate, organize, and oversee the health and safety activities of multiple employers on a single work site. The Act mandates that if 2 or more employers are working on a single site then there must be a Prime contractor. The objective of having a prime contractor is to ensure compliance with the OHS Act, Regulations, and Code. 
  3. SupplierA Supplier is a person who rents, leases, sells, erects, and installs equipment. The main obligation of the supplier is that all the equipment provided by him is safe to use and as per the standards set out by the OHS legislation 
  4. Service ProviderAny person providing training, consulting, testing, or any other service in respect of any occupation, project, or work site. 
  5. OwnerA person who is registered as an owner of the land under the Land Titles Act. The owner is obligated to maintain the land, infrastructure, buildings, and premises that are under their control and ensure that there is no active hazard that can endanger the health and safety of workers. 

Joint Work Site Health and Safety Committees (JWHSCs) 

JWHSC is another important aspect of the OHS Act. As per the provisions of the Act and code, any employer and prime contractor in case of two or more employers employing more than 20 workers for a work that lasts more than 90 days establish a joint work site health and safety committee. 

The members of the committee would be representatives of workers and the employer and they must jointly work toward the health and safety concerns at the work site. The role of the committee is to advise and assist and not to assume any managerial responsibility for the health and safety of the worksite. 

As it has been repeatedly stated, the health and safety of all the stakeholders in an organization is paramount. The legislation in Alberta also recognizes this and has made laws to minimize these risks. An organization if it doesn’t adhere to these laws can face severe consequences. Under the OHS Act if any person contravenes the Act, Regulation, and Code or if a person fails to comply with the officer’s directions will be held guilty of an offense under the Act and can face a fine up to $500,000 and/or imprisonment up to 12 months. If there is a second contravention then a person can face a fine of up to $1,000,000 and/or imprisonment of 12 months. So, make sure to comply with these laws diligently. 

All the work parties must diligently aim to fulfill their obligations under the Act and maintain the health and safety code at all times. 

Hope this article helps you to understand the OHS legislation better! For more information, reach out to our employment lawyers or give us a call at (780) 430-2826

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