- strengthen the Internal Responsibility System
- enable innovation
- clarify accountabilities
…some stakeholders raised concerns that the changes made the OHS requirements more prescriptive and burdensome, and introduced new processes that affect how OHS is addressed in Alberta workplaces and how government services and enforcement are delivered.It is unclear who these concerned stakeholders were.
Narrator: It was employers.
The consultation document discusses reducing the regulatory. Based on the changes outlined in Bill 32 (affecting employment standards and labour relations), this most likely means loosening the rules, which will shift costs from employers to workers in the form of less safe workplaces and more injuries and deaths.
The survey touches on several topics and foreshadows changes. These include:
- Joint health and safety committees: These were introduced in Alberta in 2018. The questions hint at loosening the rules (which will make it easier for employers to subvert and ignore them) and eliminating the requirement for them in so-called low-risk workplaces.
- Right to refuse: There is discussion of limiting the right to refuse unsafe work if the refusal might endanger others (so good-bye right to refuse in healthcare). There is also discussion about reducing delays associated with addressing refusals. At a guess, I’d say we’re going to see refusals no longer continuing until an OHS officer investigates (if an employer fails to make the work safe).
- Enforcement: There is discussion of “increasing flexibility” in how to deal with noncompliance with the law. Since enforcement of OHS remains completely ineffective due to a lack of political will and resources, I’m not sure what case exists for increasing flexibility around noncompliance (which presumably would further reduce the incentive employers have to comply).
- Less prescriptive: There are questions that suggest making the Act less prescriptive. This undermines the whole logic of having OHS laws. We have prescriptive laws because, absent such laws, employers operate unsafely in order to reduce labour costs (usually to increase profits). Why on earth would you make a law less prescriptive if the result will be more workers will get injured and die?
- Advisory bodies: The consultation suggests the government would prefer to have fewer stipulated expert advisory bodies (e.g., the mining expert panel) and more flexibility to appoint panels and establish their scope of work. The absence of a clear problem that this problem would solve is concerning. This sounds like a way to further politicize advisory panels (i.e., stack them in favour of employer interests).
- Potentially serious incidents (PSIs): The 2017 changes to the Act required reporting of potentially serious incidents (i.e., near misses). The consultation suggests the definition of a PSI is unclear (it isn’t) and employers don't like the work extra reporting entails. The reason for PSI reporting is that they identify unsafe workplaces and industries that require greater enforcement attention before injuries and fatalities happen.
This review is open until August 12.
-- Bob Barnetson