Key changes have been recently made to the Workers Compensation Act of BC (the “Act”). Both Bill 9 (WCA Amendment Act No. 1) and Bill 35 (WCA Amendment Act No. 2) were respectively passed on May 14, 2015 and November 17, 2015. Primary revisions include, but are not limited to:
The primary goals of these legislative changes were to improve workplace health and safety at the same time as strengthening the tools that WorkSafeBC uses to enforce the Act and the Regulations. Why has WorkSafeBC changed the law? Simply put, there are several Employers who fail to comply and the current powers of Officers are not sufficient to encourage compliance.
Do you understand the legislative changes as it relates to your business? Do you know your regulatory duties and know how to manage your health and safety risks to minimize your liabilities and maintain your due diligence? Are you ready to comply or are compliant?
WorkSafeBC Officers now have expanded stop work order and injunction powers. This an obvious need as while several Employers are “doing the right thing” when its comes to the health and safety of their workers, many more Employers are not fully compliant and simply refuse to be.
Two major changes have now been implemented. First, an Officer can issue a stop work order if they “believe there is a reasonable grounds to believe there is a high risk of serious injury, serious illness, or death.” Second, and alternatively, a stop work order can be issued if an Employer:
Simply put, an Officer can shut down your business/operations more quickly if you do not take your duties seriously enough, do not comply with previously issued orders, and/or if you are putting your workers at grave (or potentially grave) harm. Stop work orders can be issued if an Employer is not able, or unwilling to, fix the issues that can threaten the safety of their (and other) workers at their workplace.
Additionally, if implemented control measures are not sufficient to protect workers, a stop work order can be issued. Lastly, the threshold has been changed, from “immediate risk” to “high risk.” It is important to note that a stop work order can only be issued on unsafe work and cannot be extended to shut down work that is being done safely. Furthermore, WorkSafeBC can also now issue stop work orders at other workplaces or parts of other workplaces of the same Employers (called a “stop operations order”).
First, let’s go over what a “compliance agreement” is to begin with, if you so choose to engage in one. These agreements are voluntary with WorkSafeBC and are entered into by the Employer to facilitate compliance with the Act and Regulations.
It is an alternative enforcement tool to compliance orders. If you decide to enter into a compliance agreement, correct violations and report back to WorkSafeBC, then you will be less likely to receive enforcement activity. Items that, in writing, are addressed in a compliance agreement are as follows:
The agreement must be signed by an Employer representative and submitted to WorkSafeBC at an assigned or agreed to date. There are, of course, “rules of engagement” regarding compliance agreements:
How does an Officer decide if you are eligible or have you enter into a compliance agreement? Note that only the Officer can initiate the compliance agreement process. There are several factors that would be considered for a compliance agreement; these include, but may not be limited to:
Can a compliance agreement end? The simple answer is yes, an agreement can be ended or cancelled. The main instance is if the Officer believes that worker health and safety is at risk or if the current compliance agreement does not adequately protect workers. However, agreements can be cancelled for other reasons, such as:
OHS citations are yet another enforcement tool for WorkSafeBC Officer to penalize Employers who choose to not comply with orders or who fail to produce a compliance report that is not deemed “high risk” per the orders. If you, as an Employer, comply with your orders you will not receive an OHS citation. In addition, before issuing the citation, an Officer must give the Employer a written warning. However, if you still fail to comply even after the written warning, future citations will be generally imposed on you as the Employer. The maximum penalty for an OHS citation is $1,000.00, however, a first citation is half that amount ($500.00). The maximum amount can be applied on subsequent violations within 3 years of the first citation.
An OHS citation can be issued to Employers for any of the following non-compliance violations:
If a non-compliance violation has occurred, WorkSafeBC may impose an OHS citation if all of the following requirements are met on a specific inspection cycle:
OHS Global is here to help! We are an industry leader in the provision of professional, quality, timely and practical occupational health, hygiene and safety consulting and training services. We have nearly 50 combined years of experience in assisting hundreds of clients from various industry sectors in navigating and understanding the Act, Regulations, written orders etc., and designing practical, cost-efficient, and effective strategies/solutions to manage those risks.
Our related services include, but are not limited to:
Contact us for further information about how we can help you meet and overcome your specific compliance risks/challenges.
Craig Yee is an Industrial Hygienist and Principal of OHS Global Risk Solutions. He earned his Masters Degree in Occupational and Environmental Hygiene at the University of British Columbia. He has over 12 years of direct experience in the hygiene, health and safety industry in both public and private sectors. You can connect with him on Google+.
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