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New significant health and safety penalties and on-the-spot tickets in Alberta intended to act as deterrent

Alberta’s Protection and Compliance Statutes Amendment Act, 2012 came into force on September 6, 2013. What does this mean for employers? Section 40 in the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation regarding new administrative penalties and on-the-spot fines is now effective.

 

Administrative penalties

An administrative penalty is a monetary penalty levied by administrative rather than judicial action.

Beginning on October 1, 2013, significant administrative penalties can be issued of up to $10,000, and for repeat offenders (a contravention or a failure to comply that continues for more than one day), $10 000 for each day or part of a day on which the contravention or failure to comply occurs or continues. This means that employers or workers who have not complied or have a repeated chronic history of not complying with the legislation will pay the price. Administrative penalties are separate and in addition to other orders and charges.

Administrative penalties focus compliance on all regulated parties at a worksite. They can be levied against:

  • prime contractors
  • contractors
  • employers
  • suppliers
  • workers

According to Alberta Human Services, “The amount of an administrative penalty will be determined by OHS officials, upon consideration of a variety of factors. These include (but are not limited to) past health and safety performance, the frequency of orders, tickets or other compliance interventions, and whether there appears to be an overall commitment to maintaining proper health and safety systems in the workplace.”

On-the-spot tickets

Also, beginning on January 1, 2014, OHS officers are able to issue tickets of up to $500 (ticket fines range from $100 to $500) on-the-spot to employers or workers caught not complying with workplace safety rules on the job site. What can you get in trouble for? There are more than 60 contraventions under the health and safety legislation—any of these contraventions can result in ticketing. These include everything from failing to wear personal protective equipment to smoking in a work area where a flammable substance is being used or stored.

On-the-spot fines are being introduced as an effective mechanism for preventing work-related injury and disease.

OHS tickets are issued on the same form that is used for Alberta traffic violation tickets. There will be a 15 percent victim surcharge added to each ticket. This money goes to a victim services fund.

A list of ticketable OHS offences can be found here. Tickets can be paid at any Alberta courthouse.

Employers in Alberta, you are not alone—these changes are in line with other jurisdictions including Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan.

Is there anything one can do when hit with an administrative penalty?

There is now the option of appealing an administrative penalty through Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Council within 30 days from the date
notice of the penalty is given.

Individuals who are ticketed under the new system can plead not guilty and go to court, just as they could with a traffic ticket.

How can employers and workers avoid being issued an OHS order, ticket or administrative penalty or fine?

The Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulations and Code is administered and enforced by the Ministry of Labour, Alberta Human Services.

Inspectors of the Ministry of Labour investigate complaints, accidents, and work refusals. They inspect workplaces to ensure that the Act is being complied with, and that the internal responsibility system is working.

Under the law, employers in Alberta must:

  • Have copies of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Regulation, and the Occupational Health and Safety Code readily available for reference by workers. These copies can be digital downloads or hard copies. The Act, the Regulation and the Code provide “rules” to help keep your worksite safe and healthy.
  • The Act says that you, as an employer, must do everything you reasonably can to protect the health and safety of your workers.

The best way to pass an OHS inspection and/or ensure you are complying with OHS obligations under the law as well as providing a safe workplace for all workers, is to understand and implement the elements of an effective Health and Safety Program.

The program is required to include the following elements:

  • Occupational health and safety policies and procedures
  • Training and Supervision
  • Written work procedures for hazardous work
  • An Occupational Health and Safety Committee or Representative (as determined by the number of employees in a workplace)
  • A hazard identification and control system that will identify, evaluate and control hazards to minimize accidents and injuries
  • Inspection procedures and schedule
  • Procedures for hazard and accident reporting and accountability
  • Employer hazard and accident reporting to JOHSC or Representative
  • System for OHS monitoring, follow up and control of hazards
  • System for investigation of incidents and identification of causes
  • Provision for monitoring and evaluation of OHS Program effectiveness
  • Maintenance of OHS records and statistics

This means that the employer must conduct a hazard assessment of the worksite and take effective measures to control the hazards identified. In addition, the employer must ensure that all workers who may be affected by the hazards are familiar with the necessary health and safety measures and procedures before the work begins. Equipment at the worksite must be maintained in safe working order, and dangerous chemicals must be properly labeled and stored. The employer must set up safe-work practices at the worksite and make sure these practices are followed. It is up to the employer to make sure workers have the skills and training needed to do their jobs safely.

If controlled products such as dangerous substances or chemicals are made, stored or used at the worksite, the Act requires the employer to provide labels and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs). Also, the employer must train the workers on how to use controlled products safely.

The employer must give all workers the information they need to do their jobs safely.

If the employer employs workers who may be exposed to certain controlled products (for example, chemicals), he or she must make sure appropriate protective measures are implemented. In some cases, specific health examinations of the workers may be required. In general, examinations should take place during normal working hours and at the employer’s expense. For example, in cases where workers are exposed to excessive noise, they must periodically test their hearing.

Workers also have duties under the Act. They must work in a safe manner, be safety conscious on the job and co-operate with the employer in the health and safety measures set up by the employer. The Act require employers to make sure workers are aware of their duties under the law.

Christina Catenacci and Yosie Saint-Cyr
First Reference Human Resources and Compliance Editors

The Human Resources Advisor

The Human Resources Advisor

To find out more on administrative penalties and fines and how to comply with OHS law, take a free trial of The HRA. Complying with employment laws in your province is easy when you have The Human Resources Advisor at your side. The A-Z manual provides you with legally-reviewed answers to your daily employment law and payroll questions.

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Christina Catenacci

Christina Catenacci, BA, LLB, LLM, was called to the Ontario Bar in 2002 and has since been a member of the Ontario Bar Association. Christina worked as an editor with First Reference between February 2005 and August 2015, working on publications including The Human Resources Advisor (Ontario, Western and Atlantic editions), HRinfodesk discussing topics in Labour and Employment Law. Christina has decided to pursue a PhD at the University of Western Ontario beginning in the fall of 2015. Read more
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