Category Archives: Alberta OH & S

Hazard Assessment & Risk Management

The Government of Alberta introduced the Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) Code to complement the OHS Act and the OHS Regulation. The Code took effect as of April, 2004. Updates to the 2004 code h­ave been added and take effect as of Feb. 1st, 2007.

The 2004 Code replaces the technical safety requirements of the regulations, and deals with broader issues such as the maintenance of equipment and safety procedures in the workplace. The new Code will allow the government to react quicker to today’s changing workplace as updates to the Code can now be enacted by a Ministerial Order.

The 2004 Code introduces provisions for dealing with emerging issues at the workplace, such as:

  • Violence in the workplace
  • Biohazard protection
  • Mandatory written assessments

There has been an increase in fines associated with the contravention of the OHS Act or Code. There is a maximum fine of $500,000 and/or six-month imprisonment for a first Regulations offense. On the spot fines can now be issued by Government Inspectors. For University personnel, perhaps the most far-reaching aspect of the OH&S Code is the requirement for hazard assessment for all work procedures. The assessments must be:

  • Thorough, comprehensive and prepared with the involvement of all workers
  • Put in writing and made available to all workers
  • Reviewed at reasonable, practical intervals, or whenever a new work process or new work site, or whenever the work process changes.

Once the hazards have been identified, the next step is to implement measures to eliminate or control the hazards. This can be done by providing training to the worker, by writing out comprehensive Standard Operating Procedures, (SOP’s), on how to safely operate equipment or perform a task safely, (e.g. a chemical experiment which involves controlled products.) The employer has always been required to provide the worker with the Personal Protective Equipment, (PPE), to do the job safely, and the worker was always required to wear the PPE provided. The worker is also required to take all measures necessary to work in a safe manner for his/her own safety as well as for the safety of others in the workplace. The Regulation & Code requires a worker to report unsafe equipment/situations immediately to his/her employer.

Workplace Safety is Everyone’s Responsibility

What does this mean to you?

The new updates to the Alberta OHS Act, Regulations and Code require that all employers, i.e. Researchers, must do a Hazard Assessment of their workplace; whether that area is a computer lab, a laboratory, or a field area. After you have determined what the hazards are, you need to take the necessary steps to either eliminate or control the hazards. The hazard assessment must be documented in writing.

For examples: (Lists are not all inclusive)

  1. Computer lab:
    1. Hazards:
      • ergonomics
      • electrical routing of wires
      • electrical outlets
      • Lab’s hours of operation
    2. Controls:
      • Provide ergonomic work stations so repetitive strain injuries will not occur
      • Be sure wiring is routed to eliminate trip hazards. Extension cords should not be used.
      • The room should have sufficient electrical outlets for the number of workstations in the lab.
      • Working Alone Code applies. Personnel who wish to work after hours must sign into the after-hours book and have a contact person listed or use Campus Securities Lone Worker’s program.
  2. Chemical lab:
    1. Hazards:
      • Chemical hazards
      • Risk of injury from equipment
      • Possible electrical hazard, explosion hazard, fatal inhalation hazard depending upon the laboratory
    2. Controls:
      • Training must be provided to the worker for the chemical procedures in the lab. WHMIS training must be specific to the chemicals that are in that lab. Have worker sign a training log when they are competent to do the procedure on their own. This is the employer’s proof that training was provided to the worker.
      • For Chemical procedures an SPO’s must be written. An SOP must include: the chemical/equipment hazards involved, the first aid measures to take in case of chemical exposure, how to clean up a spill and who to contact in case of a spill, how to deal with the waste materials, the steps involved in the procedure.
      • For equipment usage – an SOP should be written with step by step procedures on what to do. (The written SOP cannot replace one on one training.) The SOP should include how to safely use the equipment, who to contact if the equipment does not work properly, what to do in case of an injury while using the equipment, unique hazards of the equipment, if any. The SOP should include manufactuer’s specifications.
      • For the extreme dangers in some labs, those labs need to have lab protocols set in place. For example: limit the hours that the procedure or equipment can be used to regular work hours only, OR, all personnel must work with a buddy at any time – no one allowed to use the equipment alone, AND, emergency response plan in case of equipment failure – who to contact in case of equipment failure.
  3. Field Areas:
    1. Hazards:
      • Remote location
      • Risk of injury travelling to site
      • Risk of injury from equipment, eg. boating, ATV’s, firearms
      • Risk of injury from wildlife eg. bears, cougars
      • Biohazards eg. West Nile Virus, Rabies, Hanta Virus, ticks
      • Camp hazards, sudden illness
    2. Controls:
      • Communications system and protocols must be set up; who to call and how often depending upon the location. What the contact personnel need to do if the camp does not respond at the given times.
      • Boating, ATV training required before field personnel go out. Federal firearms law – all personnel carrying a firearm must have their Possessions and Acquisition license. All University Policies regarding firearms must be followed.
      • Bear avoidance training needs to be provided prior to personnel heading out into the field.
      • Field personnel must be made aware of the biohazard risks while in the field and measures to be taken to avoid – information must be provided.
      • Access to the field area can be hazardous. Helicopter training is needed if field personnel are not familiar with this type of travel. Driving to field area; U of a personnel using University vehicles will need to take a Defensive Driving course and have a Driver’s assessment done prior to renting a U of A vehicle.
      • All field personnel require First Aid training before heading into the field.

The researcher must keep records of the worker’s that he/she has trained and what training each worker has. Have the worker sign this training record for every task that they have been trained for.  This is the only proof you will have that training has been provided.

For more information on the Alberta Occupational Health & Safety Act, Regulations & Code, go to:

Occupational Health & Safety Act, October, 2015

Occupational Health & Safety Regulations

Occupational Health & Safety Code,(2009)

Or for a shorter version of the changes you can go to this site: Alberta Jobs, Skills, Training & Labour

Due Diligence

Due Diligence is addressed in government legislation under the Alberta Occupational Health & Safety Act and is commonly referred to as the “General Duty Clause” (L10115). The clause reads:­

“Every employer shall ensure, as far as reasonably practical for them to do so, the health and safety of workers engaged in the work of that employer, and those employees not engaged in the work of that employer but present at the work site at which the work is being carried out; that the workers engaged in the work of that employer are aware of their responsibilities and duties under this Act and the regulations.

Every worker shall, while engaged in an occupation, take reasonable care to protect the health and safety of him/herself and of other workers present while he/she is working, and co-operate with his/her employer for the purpose of protecting the health & safety of him/herself, other workers engaged in the work of the employer, and other workers not engaged in the work of that employer but present at the work site at which that work is being carried out.”

Due Diligence simply means taking all reasonable steps to protect the well being of employees, co-workers, students and visitors. In order to comply with the standard of due diligence, all reasonable precautions must be taken, even to the point of exceeding generally accepted practices. Due diligence requires the identification of hazards and the implementation of specific preventative measures to protect employees from loss, injury, illness and disease.

Why should you practice due diligence? In the event of an accident or injury occurring, there is the potential for liability against individuals as well as corporations and institutions. The liability for environmental, health and safety losses or offenses is based on common law principles and ignorance of the law is no defense.(Occupational Health & Safety Act; Alberta Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act). Due diligence requires proactive management and corporate and individual accountability.

Practicing due diligence means providing reliable, serviceable and maintained protective equipment and materials appropriate for the hazard. It also means ensuring that the employees and students are competent for the tasks they are required to perform and that they understand all instructions, information and supervision. Records should be kept of all training, inspections, safety meetings, equipment maintenance, incidents, and investigations. Written policies and procedures need to be developed and a job demands analysis needs to be conducted before designing any training program.

The practical steps for implementing due diligence are:

  • Be Aware
  • Be Objective
  • Be (Pro)Active
  • Take Care
  • Take Note

To view the Govenment of Alberta Bulletin on Due Diligence: http://work.alberta.ca/documents/WHS-PUB_li015.pdf

To view the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety:  http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/legisl/diligence.html