Were you aware that occupational health and safety (OH&S) laws exist at both the provincial and federal level?
Approximately 10% of the Canadian workforce falls under the OH&S jurisdiction of the federal government (Canadian Labor Code Part II). The remaining 90% of Canadian workers fall under the legislation of the province or territory where they work; though each province is distinct, there are many similarities in the legislation and intent of the law.
Not only are there distinct health and safety regulations in each province and territory, but organizations can now be held criminally responsible for serious violations of OH&S regulations. On March 31, 2004, Bill C-45 officially became law; this federal legislation amended the Canadian Criminal Code (CCC), established new legal duties for workplace health and safety, and imposed serious penalties for violations that result in injuries or death. Bill C-45 is separate legislation from existing OH&S acts. It established new rules for attributing criminal liability to organizations for the acts of their representatives, and established a legal duty for all persons directing the work of others to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of workers and the public. If this duty is "wantonly" or recklessly disregarded and bodily harm or death results, an organization or individual could be charged with criminal negligence.
Who Does It Affect?
Bill C-45 affects all organizations and individuals who direct the work of others, anywhere in Canada. Employers failing to comply with the legislation face serious penalties.
In addition to Bill C-45, a number of provinces have amended their OH&S legislation to specifically regulate situations where employees are deemed to be working alone. As of January 2014, these jurisdictions include British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, New Brunswick, Newfoundland & Labrador, and Prince Edward Island. There is also a brief mention of lone workers in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut regulations.
Though provincial regulations vary, a few common principles apply. Employers must conduct a hazard assessment, take all reasonable measures to eliminate or minimize the hazard and provide an effective communication system for the specific lone working situation.
It should be noted that while federal legislation does not mandate the use of a specific form of communication, it does require that such communication be “effective” with regard to the specific lone working situation and risks. Provincial legislation is more specific with respect to communication and in most cases demands that an effective means of communication be provided to lone workers “to signal the need for assistance.” Certain jurisdictions, like BC, go even further and the legislation is quite specific with respect to the employer’s obligations to conduct interval checks on the well-being of employees assigned to work alone or in isolation, and mandates that employees performing higher risk activities require shorter check-in intervals.
A 2010 report by the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives titled Success is No Accident sheds light on the declining workplace safety concerns related to employers under federal jurisdiction and recommends that “all federal government and crown corporations should comply with ‘best practice’ standards for worker safety.”
OH&S legislation and specific lone worker legislation have important implications for all employers in Canada. Health and safety managers and supervisors should familiarize themselves with available technological and communications solutions Products and services like Loner from Blackridge Solutions can assist organizations in addressing their duty of care obligations, and demonstrating compliance with applicable federal and provincial regulations.
This legislation is wide-reaching. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), oil and gas workers, park rangers, conservationists, environmental scientists, private security firms, rural and wild firefighters, geophysicists and other organizations with employees working alone in regions poorly served by traditional communication, are all affected.
Do you have employees that work alone?
As an employer, the onus is on you to take the required measures for ensuring compliance with Bill C-45. Should an employee be injured while working alone, directors and officers of the company can be sued and held liable. A common misconception is that your Commercial General Liability policy will cover suits brought against the company by workers injured in the workplace. This is not the case.
Directors and Officers Liability Insurance was developed as a means to help organizations pay the legal costs of defending an action against their directors and officers. This is an important type of coverage for all organizations to reduce the financial impact of a lawsuit arising from Bill C-45.
For more information and resources on risk management or insurance-related matters, please contact a CapriCMW Risk Advisor.
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of CMW Risk & Business Magazine.