Keeping Workers SafeComplying with Health & Safety Legislation
If you think occupational health and safety legislation only applies to those employers in construction, oil and gas, or other high-risk industrial sectors, you need to think again. Occupational health and safety legislation applies to all employers in all industries including retail. Employers in the retail sector need to be aware of what their roles and responsibilities are when it comes to addressing worker safety. This includes having a health and safety management program in place that has identified specific hazards related to the work environment and what controls to put in place to either eliminate or mitigate the risk should a workplace incident occur.
Alberta has seen a number of legislative changes with implementation dates throughout 2018, including the Occupational Health and Safety Act, which had been in place since 1976.
Liability can be multifaceted if one or more of the worksite parties are found negligent.
Bill 30: An Act to Protect the Health and Well-being of Working Albertans took effect on June 01, 2018. Bill 30 includes changes not only to the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act but also includes enhancements to the WCB system. The enhanced legislation means employers need to be proactively aware and are obligated to know their role and responsibilities when it comes to worker safety.
Here are some highlights and what employers need to know about the changes to the OHS Act:
1. Workers’ Rights
The OHS legislation was revised to include three basic rights of workers:
· The right to refuse dangerous work
· The right to know
· The right to participate
Since employers are responsible for worker safety, they are obligated to inform workers of their rights, duties, and any safety concerns.
2. Worksite Parties’ Responsibilities
While the onus ultimately falls on the employer, legislation outlines that everyone at a workplace is responsible for health and safety and that liability can be multifaceted if one or more of the worksite parties are found negligent should an incident occur that compromised health and safety. This includes owners, employers, supervisors, workers, contractors, and even suppliers.
3. Health and Safety Representative/Committee
If you are a small employer with more than five and fewer than 19 employees, you are required to have a health and safety representative. All large employers with over 20 employees are required to have a joint health and safety committee comprised of both management and workers.
All employers, including retail stores, are required to develop detailed harassment and violence prevention policies and procedures.
4. Harassment and Violence Prevention Plans
All employers, including retail stores, are required to develop detailed harassment and violence prevention policies and procedures, which is an important element of any health and safety management program given the high potential risk of theft and robbery in a retail environment.
In order to mitigate the risk, retail employers are required to do the following: have time lock safes that cannot be opened overnight; implement safe handling procedures and have minimal amounts of cash on hand; limit quantities of common theft items such as cash; use video monitoring; limit access to premises; display signs to inform the public of time lock safes, limited quantities of certain items, and video monitoring; provide personal emergency transmitters for workers working alone; and train workers in all aspects of the harassment and violence prevention plans.
5. Health and safety management programs
A health and safety management program is a coordinated system of procedures and processes used to improve occupational health and safety as well as prevent injury and illness in the workplace. Every employer in Alberta is required to have a health and safety management program in place that includes the 10 elements as written in legislation.
These include having a:
1. Health and safety policy;
2. Hazard assessment and control;
3. Emergency response plan;
4. Statement of OHS responsibilities of the employer, supervisors, and workers at a work site;
5. Schedule and procedures for work site inspections;
6. Procedures for when another employer or self-employed person is working at the work site;
7. Health and safety orientation and training for workers and supervisors;
8. Procedures for investigating incidents, injuries, and refusals to work;
9. Procedures for worker participation in work site health and safety, including inspections and investigating incidents, injuries and refusals to work; and
10. Procedures for reviewing and revising the health and safety program.
All incidents and potentially serious near misses must be reported to the OHS contact centre at
Now, any incident resulting in a hospital visit must be reported.
7. Compliance and Enforcement
Alberta OHS investigators take worker safety seriously and want you to as well. In order to avoid getting an order or an administrative penalty, the solution is simple: incorporate and formalize a health and safety management program at your worksite.
While it may all seem daunting, rest assured there are training and resources available to help. You can start by looking at the Alberta Government website (https://www.alberta.ca/occupational-health-safety.aspx). You also have the option of joining a local Health and Safety Association. By being a member of a health and safety association, you have the ability to gain access to relevant training required in order to develop a quality health and safety management program for your worksite.
The Alberta Hospitality Health and Safety Association (AHSA) is one of 11 that have a certified partnership with Alberta Government and that provides quality training, which aligns with the provincial legislation.
If you need more information and would like to know more about what AHSA has to offer and how to become a member to access training, please visit www.ahsa.ca or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we would be happy to assist you with your health and safety training needs.
Michelle Plaizier is Executive Director of the Alberta Hospitality Health and Safety Association.