New Workplace Safety Legislation Introduced in BC

On February 11, 2015, the B.C. government introduced legislation to improve workplace health and safety following recommendations from WorkSafeBC’s special advisor in the aftermath of two deadly sawmill explosions in 2012.

The legislation amends the Workers Compensation Act to strengthen WorkSafeBC’s ability to promote and enforce occupational health and safety compliance in B.C. workplaces. It complements other organizational, policy and operational changes taking place at WorkSafeBC to implement an inspection and investigation regime and to further strengthen worker safety in British Columbia.

The legislation will result in significant policy changes in four areas.

1) Introducing new and more forceful safety enforcement tools to allow WorkSafeBC to better achieve workplace safety compliance, such as:

a) a new compliance agreement for employers who voluntarily agree to improve the safety of their workplaces in response to an inspection by WorkSafeBC;
b) “on the spot” fines, or “citations”, for less serious contraventions;
c) enhancing WorkSafeBC’s ability to stop work at workplaces where unsafe conditions present a high risk to workers; and
d) expanding the court’s authority to bar the worst offenders from operating in an industry.

2) Shortening the process for finalizing financial penalties for employers so that they are more effective at promoting workplace safety.

3) Specifying new timeframes for employers to conduct an investigation when there is a significant workplace safety incident, which will require employers to:

a) conduct a preliminary investigation within 48 hours of a significant incident;
b) take necessary actions to prevent a similar incident from occurring while a full investigation is being conducted; and
c) complete a full investigation into the cause of the incident within 30 days, unless WorkSafeBC grants an extension for exceptional or complex cases.

4) Enhancing workplace safety expertise on the WorkSafeBC board of directors.

Maria Kim