One of the biggest challenges of running a business is navigating an ever-changing sea of statutory requirements. Regulations can, and often do, change with little or no notice, forcing businesses to scramble to keep up. This year is no different. Amendments to the Alberta Health and Safety Compliance rules went into effect on October 1st, 2013. As explained in this article on Lexology.com, these amendments can have a significant impact on how a business monitors, manages, and reports on workplace safety issues.
Current copies of the Occupational Health and Safety act regulations and codes must be made readily accessible to workers. These copies can be digital downloads or hard copies. Either way, they must be easily accessible to any employee who wants to reference them. The amendments are not clear about whether the copies must be physically present at the work site, but it’s probably better to error on the side of caution and have copies on hand.
Prior to the new regulations taking effect, workers were only required to report any equipment problems that could lead to health and safety issues. This has been expanded and now requires workers to make a report any time they “believe an unsafe or harmful work site condition or act exists.” As an employer, any report will then require you to “review the situation and take any necessary corrective action in a timely manner.”
What Constitutes a “Hazardous Work Site”
The previous definition of a hazardous work site as a “restricted area and a blasting area” has been widely expanded. The new definition, “a blasting area and an area of a work site where there is a reasonable chance that the airborne concentration of asbestos, silica, coal dust or lead exceeds or may exceed the occupational exposure limit for one or more of the substances under an adopted code” will require changes to the way worksites are monitored and managed. Since areas far outside of the previous hazardous work site may exceed exposure limits, it could force businesses to classify much larger areas as hazardous.
Following the implementation of these amendments, all asbestos-induced cancers are now considered notifiable diseases. In a semantic change, “lead poisoning” has now been changed to “elevated blood lead level,” though it is still a notifiable disease if the level exceeds “0.5 micromoles per litre.”
Director’s Permitting Authority
One of the goals of the amendments is to better align the suspension and cancellation rules as they pertain to the mining certification program and non-mining blasters’ permits. To accomplish this goal, the Director of Inspection has been given greater authority to issue suspensions and cancellations, reassess competencies, require additional training, or all of the above. As of October 1st, the Director has the power to suspend or cancel mining certificates or blaster’s permits “if there is reason to believe that its holder has done or failed to do anything that, in the Director’s opinion, warrants the cancellation or suspension.” In addition, the director can reassess the competency of the permit or certificate holder “for any reason.”
Measuring the Impact
As these amendments to the Alberta Health and Safety Compliance regulations have just gone into effect, it’s difficult to know how they’ll be applied, and what lasting effect they’ll have on employers. Keeping up with changes to the Alberta Health and Safety Compliance regulations, and other statutes, can be time consuming and frustrating. The penalties, should you make a mistake, are dire. Working with a reputable outsourced back office service provider makes it easier to maintain compliance with regulations that are constantly in a state of flux.