Responding to a recent deluge of scrutiny over its safety enforcement record, the Province of Alberta, Canada, is poised to take safety accountability and transparency to the next level. The Alberta government recently announced a series of safety initiatives that, if successful, will help the province shed its reputation for lax safety enforcement and position it as a continental leader in safety performance.
The move is a good start for a province that suffered an embarrassing blow last spring when the auditor general noted that a small but high-risk group of employers consistently failed to meet OHS requirements and that a significant number of employers retained Certificates of Recognition (COR) for safety performance in spite of dubious safety records and even a number of fatalities.
Most of the initiatives, announced at the end of July by Employment and Immigration Minister Thomas Lukaszuk, apply to all employers across the province and some rules have already taken effect. Below is a review of some of the announced initiatives and guidance on how Alberta companies can take proactive measures to ensure compliance with these new rules:
- Updated compliance and enforcement procedures: While the details of these updated procedures have yet to be disclosed, expect the province to begin modernizing its compliance demands and become more consistent and unforgiving in terms of follow-up and enforcement. Real-time dashboards and scorecards with compliance statistics and automated email notifications will help safety managers maintain ongoing compliance with regulatory requirements.
- Mandatory online safety records: All Alberta companies will be required to post safety records online with a specific template the province will unveil this month. Configurable reporting capabilities can streamline this process—saving time and energy—through automatic generation of custom reports that satisfy all of the province’s requirements.
- Revising COR and Work Safe Alberta programs: The province is reviewing the Work Safe Alberta program (formerly criticized for recognizing too many employers—some with questionable safety records) and tightening the criteria of its COR program to ensure only the safest employers are recognized. Using integrated safety management software to map COR requirements to safety performance can improve your chances of being singled out as a leader in safety.
- Review of all open orders: A thorough review of all open OH&S orders will be conducted by the Auditor General and any outstanding compliance issues will be addressed, including the 63 associated with Alberta employers that have been open for more than a year. Monitoring compliance and streamlining internal auditing will help demonstrate your organization has adequately responded to any applicable open orders.
- Weekend and evening worksite inspections: Though a pilot project in Alberta for the time being, weekend and evening safety inspections are the norm in other jurisdictions and this requirement will likely become a permanent fixture of Alberta safety inspections. Achieving evening and weekend compliance is easy with compliance management software and real-time dashboards and scorecards can help expedite inspections.
Though some critics have decried the new requirements as insufficient, the move towards more rigorous and transparent safety rules is a great step forward and will help save lives and reduce injuries across the province.