Workers in Alberta would be able to refuse unsafe work conditions under new workplace safety legislation the provincial government is proposing.
Minister of Labour Christina Gray announced the amendments to Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) and Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) would also ensure fair compensation and meaningful support to injured workers and their families.
“Every Albertan should be able to go to work and come home healthy and safe at the end of the workday,” said Gray. “When they don’t, they deserve to have access to the medical and financial supports they need to get healthy, care for their families and return to work.”
If Bill 30 is passed, the majority of changes to WCB and OHS would come into effect on January 1 and June 1, 2018, respectively.
Workers would be protected from any form of reprisal for exercising the right to refuse dangerous work, including loss of compensation or benefits. They would also be protected from financial loss on worksites subjected to stop work or stop use orders or while safety improvements are being made.
Proactively, workers would have to be informed about potential hazards, have access to basic health and safety information and have the right to participate in health and safety discussions and committees.
Businesses that employ five to 19 workers would have to have a a health and safety representative in the workplace. Those with 20 or more employees would have to form a health and safety committee responsible for various tasks like inspection, developing policies and training programs and orienting new workers.
The lengthy list of amendments also requires employers to report “near miss” incidents to OHS. A “near miss” incident is one that had the potential to cause serious injury to a person, but did not.
The legislation would also remove the maximum insurable earnings cap of $98,700 per year, allowing injured workers to receive benefits in line with their expected annual earnings. Employers would be obligated to support workers who suffer injuries and illnesses in their workplaces, accommodating them as they return to their job
Other changes include enhanced coverage for psychological injuries, such a post-traumatic stress disorder, better protection from workplace violence and harassment and better retirement benefits.