Action plan to improve workers safety makes progress

WorkSafeBC has implemented 29 of the 43 recommendations.

Significant progress has been made on WorkSafeBC’s review and action plan to improve workers safety in the province.

WorkSafeBC has implemented 29 of the 43 recommendations in the action plan, according to the ministry of jobs, tourism and skills training and responsible for labour,

WorkSafeBC’s board of directors appointed Gordon Macatee to develop the plan following the 2012 sawmill tragedies in Burns Lake and Prince George.

All 43 recommendations were accepted by government and WorkSafeBC last year. In addition to the 29 recommendations already implemented, two more are in progress and on track.

On Feb. 11, 2015, Bill 9 – the workers compensation amendment act, 2015 – was introduced to strengthen WorkSafeBC’s ability to enforce occupational health and safety compliance in B.C. workplaces.

The final sections of Bill 9 will come into force through an order-in-council (OIC) passed on Aug. 4, 2015.

According to the ministry of jobs, the OIC finalizes government’s commitment to implement the recommendations, building on a number of improvements made since the report’s release. These actions further strengthen WorkSafeBC’s ability to enforce occupational health and safety regulations and ensure a world-class inspection and enforcement regime.

The sections of Bill 9 being brought into force by OIC include establishing two new enforcement tools for WorkSafeBC – a compliance agreement to help employers comply with workplace safety rules more quickly, and a new administrative penalty that can be issued on the spot like a ticket for employer contraventions of more minor safety regulations.

It is up to WorkSafeBC now to develop the necessary regulations for this penalty that will come into effect at a later date.

In addition, two new positions are being created with occupational health and safety and law enforcement expertise on the WorkSafeBC board of directors.

A new regulation will also reduce the time limit to request a review of a WorkSafeBC decision or order related to occupational health and safety matters from 90 to 45 days. Macatee’s action plan recommended a shorter time frame to enhance timeliness and effectiveness of penalties and occupational health and safety orders.

According to the ministry of jobs, government’s recent amendments to the workers compensation act, culminating with this OIC, pave the way for the remaining 12 recommendations to be completed.

Shirley Bond, Minister of Jobs, said workplace safety is a priority for the government.

“We want workers coming home to their families each and every day,” she said. “The Bill 9 amendments to the workers compensation act mean that changes are being implemented that will improve workplace safety and ensure that WorkSafeBC has a world-class inspection and investigations regime.”

“These legislative changes establish a balanced enforcement system that is fair to employers, but also treats seriously those offenders who utilize unsafe work practices,” she added.

Macatee’s action plan is expected to be fully implemented by early 2016.