Occupational Health and Safety

Does Alberta have laws regarding occupational health and safety?

Yes.

Alberta has the Occupational Health and Safety Act (the OH&S Act), the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (the OH&S Regulations), and the Occupational Health and Safety Code (the OH&S Code).

  • The OH&S Act is the enabling legislation. It sets out matters such as: employer and worker general obligations, reporting and investigation requirements, offences, penalties, and remedies available.
  • The OH&S Regulations contain administrative generic requirements such as: issues around permits and certificates, required documents, technical specifications, and requirements for competent workers and safety training.
  • The OH&S Code sets out technical details. For example: core requirements, requirements applicable to all industries, requirements applicable to specific industries and activities, first aid requirements, and occupational exposure limits for various chemicals.

Last Reviewed: April 2016

Why do we need occupational health and safety laws?

The purpose of these laws is the protection of the health and safety of workers in Alberta.

More specifically, these laws:

  • assign responsibilities;
  • establish minimum standards;
  • allow for enforcement; and
  • set penalties for non-compliance.

Last Reviewed: April 2016

Do occupational health and safety laws apply to everyone?

Not quite.

Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety laws apply to all workplaces under provincial jurisdiction. Workplaces that are under federal jurisdiction are covered by the federal equivalents of these laws.

In addition, Alberta’s occupational health and safety laws do not apply to owners or occupants working on private land, and domestic servants such as nannies or housekeepers.

As of January 1, 2016 occupational health and safety standards apply to paid, non-family workers on ranches and farms. The province is currently in negotiations with the industry to develop specific policies and standards for the industry.

For more information see:
http://www.alberta.ca/farm-and-ranch.cfm

Last Reviewed: April 2016

Under the OH&S Act, who is an employer?

The Act defines employer as:

  • a person who employs one or more workers; and
  • a person designated by the employer to act as the employer’s representative (e.g. managers and supervisors).

Last Reviewed: April 2016

Under the OH&S Act, who is a worker?

The Act defines worker as a person engaged in an occupation.

Last Reviewed: April 2016

What is meant by a “competent worker”?

According to the OH&S Code, a competent worker is a worker who is adequately qualified, suitably trained and with sufficient experience to safely perform work without supervision or with only a minimal degree of supervision.

Last Reviewed: April 2016

Under the OH&S Act, what responsibilities are assigned to workers?

The general duty is in section 2(2) of the OH&S Act. It states that every worker shall take reasonable care to protect the health and safety of the worker and other workers, and cooperate with the employer for the purposes of protecting health and safety.
There are also more specific worker responsibilities in the OH&S Act, OH&S Regulation, and OH&S Code.

Last Reviewed: April 2016

Under the OH&S Act, what responsibilities are assigned to employers?

The general duty is in section 2(1) of the OH&S Act. It states that every employer shall ensure, as far as it is reasonably practicable for the employer to do so:

  • the health and safety of the employees as well as other workers at the site (not employed by employer but present); and
  • that the workers are aware of their OH&S responsibilities and duties.

There are also more specific employer responsibilities in the OH&S Act, OH&S Regulation, and OH&S Code.

Last Reviewed: April 2016

What does “reasonably practicable” mean?

This term is not specifically defined. Whether or not something is, or is not, reasonably practicable depends on the facts of the situation. In general:

  • reasonable means that a person must consider: risks to workers, nature of the hazard, length of exposure, number of workers exposed, and severity of risk; and
  • practicable means that a person must consider what is: possible, capable of being done, capable of being used, technologically feasible.

In other words, the degree of risk in a particular situation must be balanced against the time, trouble, cost and physical difficulty of taking measure to avoid the risk.

If, in any given situation, the resources are so disproportionate to the risk that it would be unreasonable to expect any employer to have to incur them to prevent it, the employer is not obliged to do so unless there is a specific requirement that he/she do so. The greater the risk, the more likely it is that it is reasonable to go to very substantial expense, trouble, and intervention to reduce it. But, if the consequences and extent of risk are small, insistence on great expense would not be considered reasonable.

In the end, only a court (or other judicial authority specified in the OH&S laws) can decide whether something was, or was not, reasonably practicable.

Last Reviewed: April 2016

Links

Prepared and submitted by the Alberta Municipal Health & Safety Association

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