Alberta Government Health and Safety eNews

The Alberta government recently released its June 2018 electronic newsletter which contains a number of links to interpretational bulletins on questions many organizations are now facing under the new OHS legislation. A copy of the newsletter is attached.

These interpretational bulletins are not legislation per se, but rather interpretations of the legislation by the OHS Regulator in Alberta. The bulletins reflect how the OHS Regulator will interpret and apply the legislation pending direction from our courts. In our court system, judges have the final say on what the legislation means and their decisions become the law. The law is not necessarily what the OHS Regulator says in its bulletins. However, it will likely be a couple of years before any OHS cases appear in our court system. In the meantime, employers must respond to this new legislation in the absence of such judicial guidance, and for this reason, the interpretational bulletins are important. At least employers can react with their “eyes wide open”. It is also worth noting these interpretational bulletins are subject to change and without much notice. Accordingly, organizations should occasionally visit the Regulator’s website to ensure those interpretations have not changed as the Regulator may refine its interpretations over time.

One of the key questions arising from the new OHS legislation is whether employers must have more than one joint worksite health and safety committee (“HSC”) when dealing with multiple worksites? Not surprisingly, the Regulator has taken the position that “each work site” meeting the threshold of 20 or more workers for work expected to last 90 days or more, requires its own HSC. On this interpretation, employers will be required to form separate HSCs for each worksite meeting this requirement. Many disagree with the Regulator’s interpretation on this issue and are taking the position that one HSC is sufficient for multiple worksites. Others are taking a hybrid approach where representatives from each work site participate in one HSC. In time this issue will be resolved by our courts, but in the interim, employers should be aware of how the Regulator will be interpreting and applying the legislation and manage that risk accordingly.

The attached electronic newsletter also contains a number of links to other interpretational bulletins and templates on key issues like harassment, domestic workers, health and safety programs, reporting incidents, investigations, etc. Also included in the attached newsletter is a helpful link to a free course for your organization’s HSC to take.

As always, if you have any questions on this subject matter, please do not hesitate to contact any individual on our Occupational Health & Safety Team.