Alberta merchants haven’t received enough information about sweeping new workplace safety rules, says a local business advocate who is calling for the province to shelve the plan for six months.
On Friday, updated Occupational Health and Safety laws that will enshrine protections from bullying, harassment and sexual violence come into force, which include several requirements for business owners to comply with the legislation.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business released a survey Wednesday of 837 members, which found 84 per cent of respondents hadn’t received adequate information about Bill 30 and, in many cases, aren’t even sure what changes they need to implement to be in compliance.
“(Alberta) has been working toward a June 1 launch, but the Labour Department doesn’t even have all their materials ready,” said Amber Ruddy, whose CFIB worked with the province to hammer out the new legislation.
“Some of our members have to keep clicking on the website to see what’s changed. We just want to hit the pause button and give business owners some breathing room.”
The province’s Occupational Health and Safety laws haven’t been reviewed since 1976 and, among other additions, enshrines workers’ rights to refuse dangerous work as well as requiring businesses to develop violence and harassment prevention policies.
Ruddy said that over the past few weeks the province has been slow to release the full effects on business owners, and the majority of CFIB’s members remain unclear in many cases of what they need to do to be in compliance, which could see some fined if they’re not up to speed. In some cases, critical information is not even scheduled to be released for weeks or even months after the law comes into effect, Ruddy added.
Businesses that are found not to be in compliance with the new legislation can face fines that range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on the severity of the infraction.
Alberta Labour Minister Christina Gray said the province conducted exhaustive consultations with businesses on the proposed changes, providing nearly 100 in-person presentations with more than 5,000 participants, as well as technical briefings and webinars. She added they’ve also partnered with Alberta’s chambers of commerce to provide information sessions alongside an online advertising campaign.
“Our government is proud of the changes we’ve made to protect working Albertans. Our legislation hadn’t been significantly updated for over 40 years and Alberta’s health and safety laws weren’t keeping up with the rest of the country,” Gray said in a statement, noting there are no plans to alter the implementation date for the updated rules.
“We will continue to work with employers over the coming months to ensure they have the supports and resources they need to implement these changes effectively.”
But Ruddy noted businesses are already deeply committed to providing safe workplaces, but many are ill-prepared to advise workers of treatment options if they’re suffering from psychological illness as well as other provisions in the new legislation.
“There are some new, onerous rules and we feel that more rules doesn’t necessarily equal a safer work environment,” she said.
“At this point, we’re hoping the government will focus on education before bringing these new rules in.”
On Twitter: @ShawnLogan403