Advocacy | Alberta | Health & Safety

RCC secures improvements to Alberta’s Health and Safety Act and Workers’ Compensation Act

November 6, 2020

Alberta’s government has introduced legislative amendments to the province’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHS Act) and the Workers’ Compensation Act that have incorporated several improvements proposed by RCC, on behalf of its members.

Bill 47, Ensuring Safety and Cutting Red Tape Act, 2020 is designed to remove duplication and redundancy in the OHS Act, and create a more sustainable workers’ compensation system.  It also updates prescriptive requirements to a performance-based system, allowing Alberta retailers to better focus on their unique situations in ensuring workplace safety.

Highlighted Amendments to the OHS Act

  • The Act adds flexibility for health and safety work site committees (HSCs) and representatives (HSRs) by removing most prescriptive requirements in the OHS Act.  Changes focus on process requirements covering duties, memberships, meetings, rules of procedure and member training, in order to make them more outcome based.  Remaining technical requirements will be transferred to the OHS Code.
  • Increasing flexibility in the OHS Act for the thresholds of Health and Safety Committees and representatives (employer size) by basing it on the number of workers who are “regularly employed” by the employer. 
  • Proposes changes to outline when refusals of unsafe work are “appropriate”.
  • Changes the definition and reporting of “near misses,” incidents that could have caused death or injury. Employers are still required to investigate and report what “potential serious incident”, however the bill would add a clause so that companies couldn’t be held liable.
  • Streamlining complaint and appeal processes in a number of areas.

The OHS legislation is expected to pass and will come into force on Sept. 1, 2021.

Highlighted Amendments to Workers’ Compensation System

The revised workers’ compensation system is intended to improve processes, cut red tape and reduce costs.  Some of the updates include:

  • Repealing the obligation to reinstate and duty to accommodate from the legislation.  Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) would facilitate return to work through WCB policies and processes (pre-2018 approach)
  • Reinforce the Minister’s power to direct WCB to conduct a review of the funding policy, for potential redistribution (return) of surpluses that may accumulate in the Accident fund.
  • Repeal the legislated requirement for employers to continue paying contributions to existing health and benefit plans after worker injury (pre-2018 approach).
  • Reinstate an insurable earnings cap to either 90 per cent of a worker’s net earnings at the time of the injury or a maximum that would be set by the WCB using a formula.
  • Enabling the WCB to calculate cost of living adjustments for compensation benefits (pre-2018 approach)
  • Transitioning fairness reviews, appeals advisory services and medical panels from the Fair Practices Office and Medical Panels Office to other organizations to remove duplication. The government said closing the two offices will “remove duplication” and save $2.25 million a year.

Once passed, most changes to the Workers’ Compensation Act will take effect Jan. 1, 2021. Changes affecting the Fair Practices Office and Medical Panels Office will take effect by April 1, 2021.

Next Steps

RCC will continue to work with the Alberta Government, and inform members regarding any updates as this Bill is debated and proceeds through the legislative process.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact: John Graham, Director of Government Relations (Prairie Region) at: jgraham@retailcouncil.org or (204) 926-8624.

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