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OHS Legislation FAQs

Act, Regulation, Code

Does Alberta have legislation regarding occupational health and safety?

Alberta has an Occupational Health and Safety Act, Regulation, and Code. The Act is the enabling legislation, the Regulation contains administrative generic requirements, and the Code includes technical details.

Why do we need this legislation?

The purpose of the legislation is the protection of the health and safety of workers in Alberta. It

  • assigns responsibilities,
  • establishes minimum standards,
  • allows for enforcement, and
  • sets penalties for non-compliance.

Does the legislation apply to everyone?

Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety legislation applies to all workplaces under provincial jurisdiction except farming and ranching, and domestic servants.

The Farming and Ranching Exemption can be found online.

How is the legislation formatted?

Section

(1) Sub-section

(a) Clause

(i) Sub-Clause

For example, in the Act, Section 2(2)(b)(ii) refers to the worker cooperating with the employer for the purposes of protecting the health and safety of other workers.

What is included in the OH&S Act?

Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Act contains

  • general duties;
  • authorities of OH&S Officers, Directors, physicians;
  • reporting, investigating serious incidents;
  • imminent danger;
  • prohibition against discipline; and
  • offences, penalties.

What minimum standards are in the OH&S Regulation?

  • availability of technical specifications;
  • availability of critical documents;
  • requirement to post orders;
  • procedure for acceptances;
  • requirement for “competent workers”;
  • equipment;
  • safety training; and
  • blasters permits.

What is in the OH&S Code?

The Code (April 2009) contains the technical details for health and safety:

41 Parts

  • Parts 1 – 3: core requirements
  • Parts 4 – 29: requirements applicable to all industries
  • Parts 30 – 41: requirements applicable to specific industries and activities

11 Schedules (tables – e.g. specific first aid supplies required at sites, occupational exposure limits for various chemicals, shoring component requirements, etc)

Index

Definitions

Who is an “employer” according to the legislation?

The Act defines “employer” as:

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

Who is a “worker” according to the legislation?

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

What is meant by “competent workers”?

According to the Code, in relation to a person means adequately qualified, suitably trained and with sufficient experience to safely perform work without supervision or with only a minimal degree of supervision.

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.

“Reasonable” – must consider risk to workers, nature of hazard, length of exposure, number of workers exposed, and severity of risk.

“Practicable” – 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 does. 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.

What is “due diligence”?

Due diligence is a defense that everything reasonably practicable was done:

  • Foresee ability – would it have been discovered in a hazard assessment?
  • Preventability – was there an opportunity to prevent the incident?
  • Control – who was monitoring, supervising, correcting or intervening?

Responsibilities 

What responsibilities are assigned to workers?

OHS Act, Section 2(2) states general duty: Every worker shall, while engaged in an occupation,

(a) take reasonable care to protect the health and safety of the worker and other workers
(b) cooperate with the employer for the purposes of protecting the health and safety of

(i) the worker
(ii) other workers of the employer
(iii) other workers (not employed by employer but present)

There are also specific worker responsibilities in the Act, Regulation, and Code.

What responsibilities are assigned to employers?

OHS Act, Section 2(1) states general duty: Every employer shall ensure, as far as it is reasonably practicable for the employer to do so,

 (a) the health and safety of

  • workers of the employer at the worksite
  • other workers at the site (not employed by employer but present)

(b) that the workers are aware of their responsibilities and duties under the Act, Regulation, and Code

There are also specific employer responsibilities in the Act, Regulation, and Code.

Other Resources

Where can I find more information about occupational health and safety legislation in Alberta?

How do I obtain copies of the legislation?

See the Alberta Queen’s Printer website at http://www.qp.alberta.ca/index.cfm.