Keeping Pace with Regulatory Changes
Safety regulators will often change regulations in response to severe accidents or incident trends. Sometimes these changes are the result of significant research and consultation with industry groups. At other times, they are brought about to keep the regulatory process in line with other jurisdictions.
On June 1, 2018, Alberta updated the Occupational Health and Safety Act. These new laws represented the first significant update in over forty years. There were key clarifications on the right to refuse dangerous work, the right to know and the right to participate. Joint work site health and safety committees became a requirement under set circumstances and there were clear definitions on harassment, bullying and violence in the workplace.
Spectrum had an advantage in keeping up with these regulatory changes; with our base in B.C., one of the jurisdictions that Alberta needed to bring their regulations in line with. The company policies, procedures and best practices already reflected the three fundamental workers’ rights, safety committees, and other regulatory adjustments.
In October 2018, I was in Edmonton on an auditor’s course designed and delivered by the Alberta Forest Products Association. Many of the other attendees were confused and under pressure to change their safety program, re-tool their training and communicate the changes to their workforce. These companies could potentially lose their place in the Partnerships in Injury Reduction program, or their Certificate of Recognition, and subsequently lose out on bid opportunities. For Spectrum, we audited in the same way, and to the same standard as in B.C., and we achieved a consistent score.
The regulations in B.C. also change frequently. There are printed versions of the Workers Compensation Act and Regulation, but the printers will often acknowledge that it is out of date before the end of the print run. I recommend using the WorkSafeBC app on a mobile device; it updates every time you open it, often on a daily basis.
WorkSafeBC releases information on changes to regulations regularly, and these are discussed in our monthly Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee (JOHSC) meetings. Each department within Spectrum has a safety representative who attends the meeting in person or by phone, and discusses any action items within their department. The minutes of the three previous JOHSC meetings are posted in the workplace, according to the regulation, for workers to review.
Spectrum’s safety program is audited for external review on an annual basis in Alberta (December) and British Columbia (June). This is an extensive review of written policies and procedures, documented inspections, investigations and training records. Interviews are conducted on a broad selection of workers, supervisors and managers. Field observations at a prescribed number of worksites confirm the actual application of regulations and policies. This process of checks and balances, along with the corrective actions it generates occurs twice in a calendar year.
Certificates and licenses for safety sensitive tasks typically expire and need renewal, to the current regulatory standard, every three years. Regulations require that all safe work procedures must be reviewed periodically and updated whenever there are changes in regulations. Young and new workers (the majority of our workers) must be made aware of all known and reasonably foreseeable hazards in the workplace. This is achieved through annual review, by each worker, of every safe work procedure appropriate to the tasks they will be performing. The completion of these reviews is tracked through our Matrix computer system.
By having the entire company comply and keep up with the regulatory changes in B.C., we were able to meet the requirements of the updated laws in Alberta. With reoccurring committee meetings, standard procedures and use of a tracking system, Spectrum is able to stay compliant and keep up with regulatory changes as they happen in each jurisdiction.