Calgary & Strathmore Employment Lawyers Advising on Workplace Health & Safety

Workplace health and safety is a fundamental responsibility of both employers and employees in Alberta. Provincial laws exist to protect workers from injuries, illnesses, and fatalities while on the job. Understanding these laws is crucial to maintaining a secure and healthy working environment for all involved, and employers can face significant legal consequences for failing to meet their obligations under Alberta’s occupational health and safety laws.

Getz Collins and Associates advises employees on their rights under workplace health and safety laws and develops comprehensive legal solutions to mediate issues between employers and employees. Our team of skilled employment lawyers keeps apprised of the ever-changing landscape of employment law in Alberta, including employers’ obligations to maintain a healthy, thriving workspace.

Workplace Health & Safety Laws in Alberta

There are a series of interconnected occupational health and safety laws applicable to Alberta workplaces:

  • Occupational Health and Safety (OHSA): The primary law governing workplace health and safety in Alberta, the OHSA sets out general duties for employers, employees, and other workplace parties.
  • Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) Regulation: The OHS Regulation provides specific details on how to comply with the OHSA’s requirements.
  • Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) Code: The OHS Code provides practice guidelines and technical standards that support compliance with the OHSA and OHS Regulation.

Employer Responsibilities Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act of Alberta

Employers in Alberta hold the primary responsibility for workplace health and safety and have several critical responsibilities under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and related OHS Regulation and OHS Code, including those set out below.

  • Identifying and Controlling Hazards: Employers must proactively identify potential workplace hazards and implement strategies to eliminate or minimize them. This involves risk assessments and the development of safe work procedures.
  • Providing Training and Information: Employers must ensure workers have the necessary knowledge and skills to conduct their work safely. This includes providing training on job-specific hazards, the use of equipment, emergency procedures, and workers’ rights under Alberta’s workplace health and safety laws.
  • Forming Workplace Health and Safety Committees: In Alberta, workplaces with 20 or more workers or with work lasting 90 or more days are required to have a Health and Safety Committee. These committees include representatives from both employees and management and oversee hazard identification and resolution.
  • Investigating Health & Safety Incidents: Employers must investigate workplace incidents (including near-misses), determine root causes, and take corrective actions to resolve hazards and prevent recurrences.
  • Providing First Aid: Employers must ensure adequate first aid resources are available and suitable workers are trained and certified in first aid.

Employee Rights Under OHSA in Alberta

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, workers are expected to be active participants in workplace health and safety. Their fundamental rights include:

  • Right to Know: Workers must be informed of potential hazards associated with their job tasks and how to work safely.
  • Right to Participate: Workers have the right to be involved in workplace health and safety processes through channels like Health and Safety Committees or by directly raising concerns with their supervisors.
  • Right to Refuse Dangerous Work: If a worker believes there’s an imminent risk to their health or safety, they can refuse to perform the work. The employer is then obligated to investigate and must not take disciplinary action against the worker.

Examples of Workplace Hazards in Alberta

The OHS Code of Alberta outlines detailed requirements for a wide range of workplace hazards, including:

  • Workplace Violence and Harassment: Employers must have robust prevention plans and procedures to address workplace violence and harassment, which can have substantial impacts on employee wellness and the overall safety of the workplace.
  • Fall Protection: Measures must be in place to prevent falls, not just in hazard-heavy spaces like construction sites but in average office spaces as well.
  • Hazardous Substances (WHMIS): Employers must handle, store, and dispose of hazardous substances safely. Workplaces that handle controlled products, or where employees are exposed to controlled products, must have a Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) in place.
  • Machine Guarding: Machinery must have proper guards to prevent worker injuries.
  • Ergonomics: Employers must take steps to address musculoskeletal risk factors and minimize strains and injuries (such as those caused by repetitive motions).

Penalties for Non-Compliance With OHSA

Employers who fail to comply with Alberta’s occupational health and safety laws can face significant legal and financial consequences, including:

  • Administrative Penalties: Employers can face substantial financial penalties for serious health and safety violations.
  • Stop Work Orders: Occupational Health and Safety officers can shut down workplaces until safety violations are addressed, leading to lost revenue and work delays.
  • Prosecution: In serious cases, employers can face criminal prosecution resulting in substantial fines or even imprisonment.

In addition to the above impacts, employers found liable for health and safety violations face public scrutiny and suffer severe reputational damage in their communities.

Contact Getz Collins and Associates in Calgary and Strathmore for Trusted Advice on Workplace Health and Safety

The knowledgeable employment lawyers at Getz Collins and Associates provide employees and employers with robust advice and legal solutions to protect employee health and safety. We understand the importance OHSA compliance plays in fostering a thriving, successful work environment and offer a variety of services relating to health and safety concerns, including policy development and review, employee advocacy in litigation, and workplace investigations.

Since its inception in 1984, Getz Collins and Associates has combined a big-firm level of innovation with a community focus to successfully serve clients across Alberta. Conveniently located in Calgary and Strathmore, we assist individuals, businesses, and institutions in all surrounding areas, including Airdrie, Cochrane, Okotoks, Drumheller, Chestermere, and Hussar. To schedule a confidential consultation, please contact us online or call 587-391-5600.