Recent changes to the Workers Compensation Act in British Columbia have strengthened WorkSafeBC's ability to enforce occupational health and safety compliance.
Among the changes are:
The amendments also create new obligations on employers investigating incidents.The legislative changes are all currently in force.
1. Employers' Investigations and Reports after an Accident: A Two-Step Process
Employers must follow a two-step process investigating and reporting workplace incidents.
First, after an accident, the employer's investigation must immediately identify anything unsafe that contributed to the incident. They must put in place anything needed to prevent similar incidents. A report is sent to WorkSafeBC within 48 hours.
Following this, employers must conduct a full investigation to determine the cause of the incident and if they need corrective action. They must submit a full report of the investigation to WorkSafeBC within 30 days (unless WorkSafeBC grants an extension).
2. Stop-Work Orders: Not just at One Worksite
How WorkSafeBC can issue a stop-work order has changed.
Previously, WorkSafeBC needed grounds to believe that an "immediate danger" was likely to result in serious injury, illness or death.They have now reduced that threshold to "high risk." The threshold can be reduced even further for some repeat offenders. In such cases, if WorkSafeBC has a reasonable belief of any risk of serious injury, illness, or death, they will issue a stop-work order.
The board can also extend a stop-work orders to multiple worksites. If WorkSafeBC issues a stop-work order, they also have the power to also issue a "stop operations" order.
3. Compliance Agreements: An Agreement to Remedy the Employer's Non-Compliance
A "compliance agreement" is now available to WorkSafeBC.
The Board can enter into a written agreement with an employer looking at the action the employer will take to remedy any contravention or failure to act.
WorkSafeBC can rescind the agreement if the employer does not take the required action, or if it considers that the agreement no longer adequately protects the health or safety of workers.
4. Administrative Penalties: A new Framework for Lower Penalties
Amendments to The Act allow WorkSafeBC to issue administrative penalties of not more than $1,000 if the employer has failed to act. The framework for assessing penalties over $1,000 has not changed.
5. Expanded Scope for Recipients of Court Orders:
Changes to the Act have expanded the scope of what the Court can order when granting injunctions. This authority has expanded in two key ways.
The Court is now able to stop a person from carrying on an industry, or an activity in an industry. This prohibition can extend for a limited or indefinite period of time.
Secondly, they have broadened the class of individuals affected by this new power.
The implementation of some aspects of the recent amendments may change as WorkSafeBC reviews the current policies and guidelines.
WorkSafeBC publish current versions on their website at www.worksafebc.com.