Albertans have had their input and will officially have a new Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHS) for the province as of June 1.

The NDP government invited Albertans to provide input during the month of April of what they would want to see in the act. The old OHS act will be replaced with a new act that employers will need to familiarize themselves with.

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Here are just a few of the changes coming:

  • New obligations for worksite parties including supervisors, those who are self-employed, consultants and  more
  • New obligations for owners to ensure that their premises are maintained in a safe condition
  • Workers will now have a formalized right to refuse unsafe work
  • A larger definition of harassment and new measures to ensure that workers are protected from all forms of it
  • Broader and more explicit power of inspection and permits for OHS officers

Labour Minister Christina Gray announced last year that the NDP government would launch a review of the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act that had not been revamped since 1976.

Labour unions in Alberta have been fighting for these changes for years and were glad to see that the government was finally listening.

Researchers have found in both North America and internationally that where there is a union present, workplaces injury rates are lower than non-union. In Canada, a study found that unionized construction sites were 30 per cent less likely to suffer critical injuries.

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This is because of the leadership role the union plays in the workplace. Union shop stewards and business agents are able to ensure the safety of everyone in the workplace and are available if employees feel that they need to report any health or safety violations.

You should never have to worry about performing unsafe work or feeling uncomfortable in your workplace. Unions are celebrating these changes and will continue to fight for workers’ rights across the province.