How Does Alberta Enforce Health and Safety Laws?
Going to work shouldn’t be scary. You shouldn’t have to worry about being forced to lift more than you can, face multiple fire hazards or work to the point of exhaustion where mistakes can easily be made.
When you go to work, you should know you will go home at the end of the day safe and sound.
That is why in Alberta we have the Occupational Health and Safety Act to protect all workers. It was recently updated by the Alberta Government on June 1, 2018, and saw multiple changes including expanded rights for workers to refuse unsafe work and broader powers for OHS officers.
If you don’t have anyone looking out for your health and safety in the workplace, you can feel totally alone against your employer.
Here is everything you need to know about how OHS enforces safety in the workplace.
Who Is Not Affected
There are a few workers that do not fall under OHS authority and that is farm owners and their unpaid workers (relatives, neighbours or children), federal government employees and workers in federally regulated industries.
Employers can comply with provincial legislation through education, worksite inspections and other enforcement measures such as orders, violation tickets and penalties.
OHS officers conduct inspections typically with no prior notification to the employer. Inspections include taking measurements, samples, photos or recordings, speaking with witnesses and asking for documentation. During the inspection employees and employers must provide identification.
Orders are issued by OHS officers to get parties to follow OHS legislation.
Compliance Orders: An office observes a non-compliance and notifies the employer that it requires action by a specific date.
Stop Use Order: This is where officers stop the use of equipment that is observed to be unsafe.
Stop Work Order: An OHS officer will issue a stop work order when they observe that the work being done is unhealthy or unsafe. This stops work immediately on the entire site or certain areas deemed unsafe.
Directors Orders: An OHS Director has additional authorities to stop work on a project, establish a code of practice, establish a health and safety program or file notice of new projects.
OHS officers can write on-the-spot tickets against employers or workers who put health and safety at risk. These are issued for easily observable and straightforward non-compliance and range from $100 to $500 per violation. You can see a full list of ticketable offences here.
Monetary penalties are issued by OHS for non-compliance with legislation and can go up to a maximum amount of $10,000 per day, per penalty. They are determined by severity of the violation, risk of harm involved, compliance history including previous orders or tickets and whether there is a demonstrated commitment to health and safety.
Complaints and Incidents
OHS is here to make sure your workplace is following regulations and they have multiple ways for you to file a complaint or report an incident.
Report Serious Injury or Incident
If there is a serious injury or incident at your workplace you must call OHS as soon as possible. The contact centre is open 24 hours a day and can be reached toll-free at 1- 866-415-8690 (Alberta) or at 780-415-8690 (Edmonton).
Report Potentially Serious Incident
You must report to OHS if there was an injury that required medical attention beyond first aid or the incident could have caused a serious injury. You must use an online form for this type of incident.
File a Complaint Online
If you think your workplace is unsafe and you want to inform OHS you can make a confidential complaint online.
Refuse Dangerous Work
You have the right under OHS to refuse any work you think may be too dangerous. You can find out more about what dangerous work is and what to do about it here.
Report Unsafe Work
As a worker, it is your duty to report unsafe work conditions to your employer or supervisor, who then has the responsibility to determine the next steps. Learn more here.
Once an incident is reported the investigation unit is put on the case.
Step 1: Investigators visit the work site to determine the causes and circumstances.
Step 2: An enforcement review is conducted to determine if the incident should be submitted to Alberta Justice for consideration for prosecution. If not or if Alberta Justice determines that there is no reasonable likelihood of conviction, then the investigation report is released to the public.
Step 3: If Alberta Justice determines there is a likelihood of conviction then charges are laid. Charges that are pending are posted online.
Step 4: The accused can be found acquitted, guilty or have charges withdraw. The court outcomes are also posted online.
Ask an Expert
If you have questions about health and safety in the workplace, OHS has an online submission form where you can submit any of your inquiries. You can also call them at 780-415-8690 (Edmonton) or toll-free: 1-866-415-8690.
Workplace safety is no joke. Last year in Alberta alone there were 166 men and women who died because of a workplace injury or illness. No one should ever have to worry about their health and safety in the workplace, but the truth is employers still consistently violate the law.
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