What Changes to the Safety Act Mean for Your Business
Keeping up with safety regulations is a constant chore on the jobsite, and when the playbook changes, keeping abreast of what’s new and different can help avoid conflict and strengthen your business. Recent changes to the Alberta Safety Codes act will affect the authority of safety officers on the job site and municipalities, alike, but how will Bill 21 affect your business?
“This is a paradigm shift,” Brian Alford, President and CEO of Alberta’s Safety Codes Council said. “It’ll mean that once national codes are published that they’re adopted in Alberta and come into force sooner.”
Among other things, this streamlined process means that Canadian Standards Association approved safety regulations will make their way more quickly to Albertan work sites. Currently, safety code adoption around the country is patchwork, meaning different standards in different provinces for safety regulations. Different standards mean more training sessions and more money for companies working interprovincial.
“Different standards increase the costs across the country. If we’re all using the same playbook it speeds things up and makes things more economical,” Alford said.
The change will also apply to building codes. Although standardization won’t take immediate effect, Bill 21’s changes are a step in the direction of eliminating interprovincial differences and the increased expenditures they cause.
“When you’re talking about a building being built in Ontario and the same building being built in Alberta, designers have to be aware of the standards in both provinces and that adds to the costs,” Alford said. “If it was the same standard across the country, things would be easier for everyone.”
Those worried that streamlined approval means a less rigorous examination of safety code improvements need not worry. The Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour will still receive recommendations from the Safety Codes Council on potential changes and the CSA carefully examines new regulations. If anything, Alford explained, the new system means elimination of redundancy in approvals, something every site manager can get behind.
And codes won’t be the only thing streamlined. Safety officers working on site will now have the ability to apply administrative penalties (aka fines) directly, whereas they were previously only able to issue orders that referred companies to the safety act and, eventually, court proceedings.
Under the new system, certain safety officers will be will be authorized by the Minister to deliver fines directly to builders and contractors with the option of an appeals process, saving the province money in administrative and court expenses. This is good news for compliant companies and bad news for habitual rule-breakers who used the timely courts process to delay the adoption of safety recommendations at the expense of Albertans.
Bill 21 will also give municipalities new controls over private sewage disposal systems, giving them the right to restrict construction projects, affecting contractors and homeowners. Locales where private sewage disposal may negatively impact the environment and local community needs may require the use of public sewage disposal, so check with your local municipality before you break ground on that summer cabin construction project.