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Workers in Alberta will see dramatic and positive changes to health and safety legislation come into effect on June 1, 2018. With the passage of Bill 30, the Alberta government has overhauled the Occupational Health and Safety Act (the Act) for the first time in over 40 years.

To explain the implications for our members and other workers, CUPE’s National Health and Safety Branch is highlighting some of the changes members can expect to see.

First, we look at the powers of health and safety committees.

Committees & representatives will be mandatory

Among the largest of the new changes will be the mandatory establishment of health and safety committees for workplaces with 20 or more workers. Workplaces with between five and 19 workers will select a health and safety representative.

In the 40-plus years since the creation of the Alberta OHS Act, many CUPE members have been forced to bargain to establish health and safety committees in their collective agreements. Many of the changes in the Act will now far outpace what was collectively bargained. This means that locals which have bargained health and safety committees will have to ensure their employers meet the new requirements.

By law, committees will now have the duty to:

  • Receive, consider and dispose of concerns and complaints respecting the health and safety of workers.
  • Participate in incident investigations and inspections and identify hazards that may pose a risk to anyone who enters the worksite.
  • Develop and promote measures to protect the health and safety of people at the worksite and procedures to check the effectiveness of such measures.
  • Develop and promote programs for education and information concerning health and safety.
  • Make recommendations to the employer respecting the health and safety of workers.

New timelines to respond

The new legislation will require that employers respond to committee recommendations within 30 days. This response can take the form of remedying hazards; setting a timeline for remedy, including interim control measures; or providing a reason that explains why they will not address the issue.

Let’s get ready

For some Alberta workers, the new legislation will be business as usual. But for many CUPE members, the changes will usher in a tremendously expanded set of duties for the health and safety committee to perform.

Locals should start talking to the employer to make sure they’re ready to have a committee up and running by the June 1st implementation date.

Get ready with this checklist. Have you:

  • Started the process to select members for your local’s committee?
  • Started discussions with your employer on how the committee will be set up?
  • Contacted CUPE Union Development for training for new committee members?

Resources and help

CUPE provides many resources for new committees in our Health and Safety Committee Resource Kit.

Do you have additional questions? Contact your CUPE National Staff Representative.