The Government of Alberta has recent introduced the new Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) Code to complement the OHS Act and the OHS Regulation. The Code took effect as of April, 2004.
The new Code replaces the technical safety requirements of these 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 new 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 offense. On the spot fines can now be issued by Government Inspectors. For University personnel, perhaps the most far-reaching aspect of the new Code is the requirement for hazard assessment for all work procedures. The assessments must be:
- Thorough, comprehensive and prepared with the involvement of the affected worker
- Put in writing and made available to the affected worker
- 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 new 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 have now made it law 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.
- Computer lab:
- electrical routing of wires
- electrical outlets
- Lab’s hours of operation
- 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 Regulations apply. 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.
- Chemical lab:
- Chemical hazards
- Risk of injury from equipment
- Possible electrical hazard, explosion hazard, biohazard, fatal inhalation hazard depending upon the laboratory
- Training must be provided to the worker for the common chemical procedures in the 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 SOP’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 a manual should be written with step by step procedures on what to do. (The written manual cannot replace one on one training.) The manual 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.
- 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 care of equipment failure and who to contact in case of equipment failure.
- Field Areas:
- Remote location
- 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
- Access to location hazards
- First Aid required
- 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 the risks. 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. This is the only proof you will have that training has been provided.