Workers Health & Safety Centre

Alberta begins major review of its health and safety system

Alberta begins major review of its health and safety system

Calling it a renewal, Alberta is conducting the first major review of its Occupational Health and Safety Act, prevention and enforcement systems since being created in 1976.

Alberta lags behind other jurisdictions in providing basic health and safety rights and protections. For instance, joint health and safety committees are not mandatory in the province. They are only required when designated by the Minister of Labour.

To set the stage, Alberta has drafted a discussion paper and survey which identify areas in need of improvement including: 1) clarifying responsibility in the legislation 2) improving worker engagement and 3) coordinating and improving prevention efforts.

Among the key questions posed in the government’s discussion paper are:
  • How to improve the internal responsibility system?
  • How can the province ensure Alberta workers have all the same rights as other workers in Canada?
  • How might training for workers be more accessible, meaningful and useful?
  • Which prevention programs are most effective?
  • How do Certificate of Recognition (COR) programs fit into overall prevention plan?
Alberta’s response to the last question will be closely watched. Ontario is soon expected to consult on an accreditation standard for health and safety management systems. The audit-driven COR program is favoured by many employers and has been traditionally tied to compensation incentive schemes. However, experience in other jurisdictions, including Alberta, have found this program to be seriously flawed.

Information on the Alberta OHS System Review is available online. Feedback will be accepted until midnight October 16, 2017.

Responding to the review’s launch, Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour called it long overdue, “Right now, we have an OHS Act that doesn’t respect the fundamentals of worker safety in Alberta,” said McGowan. He wants to see Alberta’s OHS Act improved to provide more meaningful and enforceable protection while keeping current with emerging workplace hazards.

Ontario completed a similar review of its health and safety system releasing the final report seven years ago. Many priority recommendations, intended to be implemented within one year, remain unaddressed including mandatory training for health and safety representatives in small workplaces and entry level training for construction workers.

To learn more:

Call:   1-888-869-7950