October 1st Changes to Alberta’s OHS Regulation: Mining, Blasting and Hazardous Work Conditions

By Jennifer A. Miller, Michael S. Sestito and Tari M. Hiebert

On October 1, 2013, amendments to Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (Regulation) come into force.[1] In this post, we bring you the highlights.

Legislation must be Available to Workers

Employers will now be required to ensure that current paper or downloaded electronic copies of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Regulation, and the Occupational Health and Safety Code are readily available for reference by workers. The amendments do not specify that this legislation must be physically available at the work site, only that it must be readily available for reference.

Unsafe or Harmful Conditions at the Work Site

Under the current Regulation, workers are required to immediately report to the employer when there is problem with equipment (obvious defect, not strong enough for its purpose, will not perform intended function, or its condition will compromise the health and safety or workers using or transporting it).

The amended Regulation will now also require workers to immediately report to their employer if they “believe an unsafe or harmful work site condition or act exists”. When workers make a report under this section, employers will have to “review the situation and take any necessary corrective action in a timely manner”.

Expanded Definition of a “Hazardous Work Site”

A “hazardous work site” was previously defined in section 5 of the Regulation as a “restricted area and a blasting area”.  Now, it will be defined as “a blasting area and an area of a work site where there is a reasonable chance that the airborne concentration of asbestos, silica, coal dust or lead exceeds or may exceed the occupational exposure limit for one or more of the substances under an adopted code.”

Expanded List of Notifiable Diseases

Every kind of asbestos-induced cancer will now constitute a notifiable disease, rather than only certain types. “Lead poisoning”, as such, will no longer be a notifiable disease. Instead, an “elevated blood lead level, that is, a worker’s blood lead level greater than 0.5 micromoles per litre” will be a notifiable disease.

Suspension and Cancellation of Blasters’ Permits and Mining Certificates: Director’s Increased Discretion

The amendments will harmonize the suspension and cancellation rules for non-mining blasters’ permits and the mining certification program. Specifically, the Director of Inspection will now be empowered to cancel or suspend a blaster’s permit or mining certificate for 72 hours “if there is reason to believe that its holder has done or has failed to do anything that, in the Director’s opinion, warrants the cancellation or suspension”.  The Director of Inspection may, “for any reason”, reassess the competency of the holder of a blaster’s permit or mining certificate, or require any specified training to be undertaken, or both.

Conclusion

The landscape for occupational health and safety law in Alberta has undergone significant changes this year.  Stay posted for further updates from Bennett Jones LLP.


[1] See Order in Council 305/2013 (September 25, 2013) and the Occupational Health and Safety Amendment Regulation, 2013.

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Jennifer Miller

Jennifer Miller

Occupational Health and Safety Lawyer at Bennett Jones LLP
Jennifer Miller's practice is dedicated to significant legal matters involving health and safety in Western Canada.
Jennifer Miller
Tari Hiebert

Tari Hiebert

Litigation and Occupational Health and Safety Lawyer at Bennett Jones LLP
Tari Hiebert has a general litigation practice, with an emphasis on occupational health and safety (OHS) law and advising clients in the energy sectors on multi-jurisdictional compliance with regulatory requirements.
Tari Hiebert