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Alberta law would let workers refuse unsafe work

Proposed changes to the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act would give workers in Alberta, Canada, the right to turn down jobs they consider to be unsafe.

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If passed, Bill 30: An Act to Protect the Health and Wellbeing of Working Albertans would protect those who refuse dangerous work from reprisal, including the loss of compensation or benefits. It would also ensure they are educated on potential workplace hazards. 

It would make it compulsory for employers to report near misses to Alberta OSH and sets out the responsibilities of all worksite parties, including supervisors, contractors and suppliers. 

Workplaces with 20 or more employees would be required to convene a work site health and safety committee with employee representatives to carry out hazard inspections, health and safety inductions, and develop education and training initiatives. Smaller employers, with between five and 19 staff, would have to deploy a safety and health representative. 

The bill states that OHS laws would be subject to review every five years to ensure they remain relevant to modern and changing workplaces. Alberta has not carried out a comprehensive review of the OHS Act since it was enacted in 1976. 

If the bill is passed, many of the changes would come into effect on 1 June 2018. 

Bill 30 was introduced on 27 November by the province’s minister of labour, Christina Gray. She said: “Every Albertan should be able to go to work and come home healthy and safe at the end of the workday. When they don’t, they deserve to have access to the medical and financial supports they need to get healthy, care for their families and return to work.”

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Keeley Downey is assistant editor of IOSH Magazine

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