Alberta's OHS Act just changed again! What do I need to know?

FEBRUARY 9 / Yvonne Chenier

Alberta’s OHS Act just changed – again! What do I need to know?   

“I am the Executive Director of a nonprofit in Red Deer that provides programs and services for immigrant families. I know that there were some recent changes to the Alberta OHS Act. What are the changes and how do they affect my organization?”    

If your nonprofit complied with the sweeping changes that took effect in June 2018 to Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, be assured that you are still in compliance. For information on the 2018 changes and how they affect nonprofits and charities, see IntergralOrg’s OHS Toolkit.  

If you are still working on it, the good news is that the new rules have somewhat reduced the burden for nonprofit and charitable organizations in two areas:

  • health and safety committee/representative requirements if there are multiple work sites
  • training requirements for health and safety committees/representatives.

Before we get into the changes, there are two key points to know about Alberta’s OHS Act. First, it is important to note that in Alberta’s OHS Act, “employer” means anyone or any organization that engages workers. Second – and of significance to nonprofit and charitable organizations - the definition of “workers” includes volunteers.    

Health and Safety Committees and Health and Safety Representatives: Each work site vs each employer  

As of Jan 31, 2020, health and safety committees and representatives will no longer be required at each work site that an employer operates.

For example, a nonprofit with 30 full-time employees that provides care for seniors may have several work sites – a care home, three drop-in program locations, and an office location for administrative staff. In 2019 and earlier, an HSC would have been required at each work site.  

Now, however, an employer with more than one work site requires only one health and safety committee or representative rather than having to have one at each location where activities take place. In other words, health and safety committees and representatives are now required for each employer not each work site.   

Whether it is a health and safety committee or a health and safety representative that is required is determined depending on the size of the organization as follows:      

When work is expected to last 90 days or more, an employer must:  

  • establish a health and safety committee if the employer has 20 or more workers in total 
  • designate a health and safety representative if the employer has 5 to 19 workers in total.   

Note that a work site with multiple employers where work lasts 90 days or more is required to have a site-specific committee or representative, depending on the number of workers. If these rules are too onerous for your nonprofit organization, you can potentially use an alternate approach to meet these requirements if you get approval from an OHS director.   

Training for Health and Safety Committees and Representatives  

The big change in training requirements is that the Part 1 prerequisite online training for health and safety committees and representatives has been eliminated as of December 2019.    

Briefly, the requirements for training now are:  

  • An employer must ensure that each health and safety committee co-chair or health and safety representative completes a mandatory  training course.   
  • The mandatory course is six to eight hours long. Employers are required to allow workers time to complete the training.  
  • The mandatory training course can be delivered only by approved agencies. For a list of approved agencies, see: https://ohs-pubstore.labour.alberta.ca/edu009

Now that you are aware of the recent changes to Alberta’s OHS Act, you may want to confirm that your organization is fully compliant with all requirements – for a general overview of the Act and a series of helpful templates, see IntergralOrg’s OHS Toolkit.  

If you would like IntegralOrg to help your organization learn more about how to become compliant, please contact us.  

Sources   

Director’s order rescinding site-based committees  (PDF, 72 KB) 

https://www.alberta.ca/work-site-health-safety-committees.aspx 

Resources

Occupational Health and Safety: https://www.alberta.ca/occupational-health-safety.aspx

Mandatory Health and Safety Committee and Representative Training: https://ohs-pubstore.labour.alberta.ca/LI054

Yvonne Ceenier, QC, is a lawyer and philanthropy consultant – and co-founder of IntegralOrg. Yvonne brings more than 35 years of experience helping those in the philanthropic, nonprofit, and social enterprise sectors as general legal counsel and as an advisor on planning, organizational, regulatory and governance matters.