Proposed changes to the Workers’ Compensation Act and Occupational Health and Safety Act would better protect Albertans and support injured workers.
If passed, An Act to Protect the Health and Well-being of Working Albertans would improve workplace health and safety and provide fair compensation and meaningful support to injured workers and their families. The changes would also ensure Alberta workers have the same rights and protections as other Canadians.
“Every Albertan should be able to go to work and come home healthy and safe at the end of the workday. When they don’t, they deserve to have access to the medical and financial supports they need to get healthy, care for their families and return to work. This bill would better protect hardworking Albertans and provide fair compensation to Albertans injured on the job.”
~Christina Gray, Minister of Labour
The bill would modernize Alberta’s health and safety system to reflect modern workplaces, increase employee participation, improve safety, and increase supports to injured workers.
“The proposed changes to the occupational health and safety system are generally in line with the oil and gas industry’s best practices. Our objective as a safety association is to develop and support standards and best practices across the oil and gas industry and we see these changes as a positive step forward in advancing worker health and safety in Alberta.”
~John Rhind, CEO, Energy Safety Canada
“Even one tragedy – one fatality, one life-altering injury, one occupational disease – is too many. Threads of Life is dedicated to a world where these tragedies become morally, socially and economically unacceptable, so that all workers return home safe and healthy to their families. We support Alberta’s steps to help move us as Canadians closer to that vision.”
~Shirley Hickman, executive director, Threads of Life
The Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) provides no-fault benefits and supports a safe return to work for injured workers. The proposed changes would mean 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.
Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act sets the minimum standards for workplace health and safety, and outlines the roles and responsibilities of employers and employees. These proposed changes would better protect workers, ensure they have the same rights and protections as other Canadians, and empower them to participate in health and safety in Alberta’s workplaces.
The proposed changes result from government’s review of the OHS system and the independent review of the WCB system. If passed, the majority of changes to WCB and OHS would come into effect Jan. 1 and June 1, 2018, respectively.
If passed, the legislation would provide better protections and benefits to Albertans by:
Workers’ Compensation Board changes
- Establishing an independent Fair Practices Office that helps Albertans navigate the WCB system by providing additional resources to support workers every step of the way.
- Establishing a Code of Rights and Conduct that outlines the rights of workers and employers, while also explaining how WCB staff would recognize these rights and conduct.
- Removing the maximum insurable earnings cap of $98,700 per year, allowing injured workers to receive benefits in line with their expected annual earnings.
- Improving benefits for:
- Surviving spouses and children when a worker is killed on the job.
- Young workers who sustain a long-term injury that affects their career opportunities.
- Improving retirement benefits for injured workers to better recognize the impact on an injured worker’s retirement savings.
- Providing an option for interim relief while decisions are under review and appeal, helping to reduce potential hardship while disputed claims are being reviewed or awaiting appeal.
- Providing greater choice for injured workers in selecting health professionals.
- Enhancing coverage for psychological injuries, including post-traumatic stress disorder, for all occupations where workers have experienced a traumatic incident at work.
- Requiring employers to continue providing health benefit programs to injured workers under existing coverage for one year after the date of the injury.
- Establishing an Occupational Disease and Injury Advisory Committee that would review occupational diseases, and provide advice on emerging trends in medical science.
- Continuing to allow the WCB to determine how the Accident Fund is used.
- Introducing an obligation for employers to support the “return to work” of workers who suffer injuries and illnesses in their workplaces. Employers will have a duty to accommodate workers to the point of undue hardship.
Occupational Health and Safety changes
- Enshrining the three basic rights of workers in Alberta’s legislation:
- The right to refuse unsafe work. The proposed changes protect workers from any form of reprisal for exercising this right, including loss of compensation or benefits.
- The right to know. The proposed changes ensure workers are informed about potential hazards and have access to basic health and safety information in the workplace.
- The right to participate. The proposed changes ensure workers are involved in health and safety discussions, including participation in health and safety committees.
- Mandating joint work site health and safety committees for workplaces with 20 or more employees. These committees are responsible for:
- inspecting the work site for hazards
- helping employers respond to health and safety concerns of workers
- helping resolve unsafe work refusals
- helping develop health and safety policies and safe work procedures
- helping with new employee health and safety orientation
- developing and promoting education and training programs.
- Requiring employers with between five and 19 workers to have a health and safety representative in the workplace.
- Clarifying roles and responsibilities of workplace parties for health and safety, including the obligations of employers, supervisors, workers, owners, prime contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, service providers, self-employed persons and temporary staffing agencies.
- Protecting workers from workplace violence and harassment. This includes new legislative definitions as well as outlining the responsibility of employers and supervisors to prevent workplace violence and harassment, and workers to refrain from these activities.
- Protecting workers from loss of wages or benefits on worksites subjected to stop work or stop use orders or while safety improvements are being made.
- Requiring employers to report “near miss” incidents to OHS. A “near miss” incident is one that had the potential to cause serious injury to a person but did not.
- Expanding the ability of the courts to impose creative sentences, such as providing funding for research on preventative medicine or health and safety training programs.
- Requiring the government to publish more information collected during compliance and enforcement activities, including the results of OHS investigations.
- Requiring OHS laws be reviewed every five years to ensure they remain relevant to modern and changing workplaces.