Occupational Health and Safety

Bill 30: An Overview of Alberta’s New WCB and Occupational Health and Safety Laws

Bill 30, the Alberta government’s proposed changes to Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Act and Workers’ Compensation Act, is poised to overhaul workplace health and safety rules. Read on to learn why these changes are happening and how they can impact your Health and Safety program. 

Bill 30: What is It? 

On November 27, 2017, Alberta introduced a new bill that had its first reading in the Legislative Assembly,  Bill 30: An Act to Protect the Health and Well-being of Working Albertans. The new bill contains very significant changes to Alberta’s Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) and Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) legislation. 

The WCB provides no-fault benefits and supports a safe return to work for injured workers. Alberta’s OHS Act sets the minimum standards for workplace health and safety, and outlines the roles and responsibilities of employers and employees.

While the Workers’ Compensation Act is simply being amended, the OHS Act is being repealed and completely replaced.  These changes will have far-reaching cost and operational implications for many employers in Alberta. Changes are estimated to cost $94 million more per year.

Why are they doing this?

Bill 30 comes after the Alberta Government’s recent overhaul of the Province’s labor and employment standards legislation. The Government reviewed Alberta’s WCB OHS systems to ensure Alberta keeps up with modern workplace needs, changing technology, and other jurisdictions. It was the first WCB review in more than 15 years and the first comprehensive OHS review in more than 30 years.

Bill 30 aims to improve workplace health and safety and provide fair compensation and support to injured workers and their families. The bill will improve upon existing regulations, and modernize Alberta’s health and safety system to reflect modern workplaces, increase employee participation, improve safety, and increase supports to injured workers.

Bill 30 results in an improved WCB system that provides greater benefits to workers to support their return to work, with premiums that remain sustainable and affordable for employers. Conversely, the changes to the OHS Act would better protect workers, ensure they have the same rights and protections as other Canadians, and empower them to participate in health and safety programs in Alberta’s workplaces.

What does Bill 30 require?

Below you’ll find an overview of the changes to both the Workers’ Compensation Board and the OHS Act that will help provide better protections to Albertans. 

Workers’ Compensation Board changes:

  • Establish an independent Fair Practices Office that helps Albertans navigate the WCB system
  • Establish a Code of Rights and Conduct that outlines the rights of workers and employers
  • Remove the maximum insurable earnings cap to allow injured workers to receive benefits based on earnings
  • Improve benefits for family when a worker is killed on the job, and for young workers who sustain a long-term injury that affects their career opportunities
  • Improve retirement benefits for injured workers
  • Provide an option for interim relief while decisions are under review and appeal
  • Provide greater choice for injured workers in selecting health professionals
  • Enhance coverage for psychological injuries where workers experienced a traumatic incident
  • Require employers to continue providing benefits programs to injured workers under existing coverage for one year after the injury date
  • Establish an Occupational Disease and Injury Advisory Committee to review diseases and provide advice on emerging medical science trends
  • Continue to allow the WCB to determine how the Accident Fund is used
  • Obligate employers to support the “return to work” of workers who suffer injuries and illnesses

Occupational Health and Safety Act changes:

  • Enshrine workers’ three basic rights (right to refuse, right to know, right to participate) in Alberta’s legislation
  • Mandate joint worksite health and safety committees for workplaces with 20+ employees
  • Require employers between 5-19 workers to have a health and safety representative
  • Clarify roles and responsibilities of workplace parties for health and safety
  • Protect workers from workplace violence and harassment
  • Protect workers from loss of wages or benefits on worksites subjected to stop work or stop use orders or while safety improvements are being made
  • Require employers to report near-miss incidents to OHS
  • Expand courts’ ability to impose creative sentences (i.e providing funding for research)
  • Require government to publish more data collected during compliance and enforcement activities
  • Require OHS laws be reviewed every 5 years to ensure they remain relevant to workplaces

What does Bill 30 go into effect? 

The proposed changes result from the Alberta Government’s review of the OHS system and the independent review of the WCB system. Most changes to the WCB went into effect Jan. 1, 2018, and most of OHS’ changes will be effective June 1, 2018.

Next Steps

To learn more about how Bill 30 or any other upcoming regulatory changes could impact your organization, contact one of our certified EHSQ experts today. 

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