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Occupational Health and Safety rules pose a hazard to small businesses

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By Amber Ruddy

Published in "Business in Calgary/Edmonton" on October 30th, 2018

 

Did you know that although new Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) rules have been in effect since June 1st, the Alberta government still hasn’t released sufficient details for businesses to be in compliance?

The new onerous policies require mandatory health and safety training for employees. However, the province has yet to release a full list of accredited training providers. Business owners may even face penalties for not following the letter of the law.

According to a spring survey conducted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), only 12 per cent of Alberta business owners said they received adequate information about how changes to health and safety regulations affect their business. In addition three-quarters (77 per cent) say they are worried they may be unfairly penalized by health and safety authorities.

The government is moving so fast on their complete legislative overhaul in the labour department, they don’t even have time to get the required details together five months after these rules became mandatory.

The question remains: will the Alberta government commit to focusing on education to help businesses comply before resorting to punitive ticketing? Officers investigating contraventions of the OHS Act have a wide variety of fines and administrative penalties at their disposal. 

The new policies require businesses with 5 to 19 employees must appoint a health and safety representative. That representative is required to take additional employee training on workplace safety for a minimum of 16 hours (or two shifts worth, whichever is greater) per year.

If your business employs 20 or more people, you now must establish a joint worksite health and safety committee. This committee must have at least four members, half of which must represent workers and must meet at least quarterly. The joint worksite health and safety committee either have to meet during regular work hours or will have to be paid for additional time spent on their duties in this role.

In Alberta 94 per cent of entrepreneurs surveyed say employment laws should be more flexible for small employers to better support small businesses. Small business owners are well-placed to understand the unique needs in their workplace and act accordingly.

When new policies are introduced, we need to ensure entrepreneurs are better accounted for. That is why CFIB is asking the government to implement a small business lens to mitigate the impact on business owners. The lens would require thorough consultation with small business owners, followed by transparent economic analysis of how the policy will impact local business. The government would also be required to consider implementing measures to help protect small businesses if they may face hardship.

If something is made mandatory, the supporting details must be available - or else it just another regulatory obstacle to overcome. It’s time the Alberta government considered the health of the business community in their policy pronouncements.

Amber Ruddy is the Director of Provincial Affairs for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.  She can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @aruddy.

This story was originally published in the Business in Calgary/Edmonton Magazine