New OHS Legislation in BC Increases Enforcement Powers
The purpose of the proposed legislation is said to be to strengthen WorkSafeBC's ability to promote and enforce occupational health and safety compliance, particularly in the area of inspections and investigations.
The proposed increased powers to WorkSafeBC include:
the power to issue a stop work order at one or several workplaces belonging to an employer where a high risk to workers or reoccurring non-compliance with a provision is found;
the power to seek a court order restraining the most egregious employers from operating in an industry;
on the spot fines up to $1000 for less serious contraventions; and,
the ability to enter into a Compliance Agreement with employers found in non-compliance.
Also, significant changes are planned for employers' regulatory obligations regarding incident investigations and reporting. Employers will be required to undertake for a two-part incident investigation for serious incidents and near misses. First, a preliminary investigation must be conducted and the employer must rectify any unsafe conditions within 48 hours. This is to be followed by a full Investigation, with a copy of the investigation report provided to WorkSafeBC within 30 days of the incident. Failure to comply could result in financial penalties.
Under the new legislation, incident investigations will attract a heightened level of attention from WorkSafeBC. Employers should familiarize themselves with the new regulatory requirements and revise their internal incident investigation policies as may become necessary. Failure to comply with the new requirements could result in further enforcement action.