New OHS Act 2018

The Alberta Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act has been amended. Learn how it will affect the university.

01 June 2018

The Alberta Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act establishes minimum standards for healthy and safe practices in Alberta workplaces. The Act has been amended, effective June 1, 2018. Environment, Health & Safety will be working to implement the new legislation in consultation with university faculties and departments.

What are the key changes?

1. Purpose of the Act

  • To promote and maintain physical, psychosocial, and social well-being
  • To prevent workplace incidents, injuries, illness, and disease
  • To protect workers from adverse conditions
  • To protect worker rights

2. Roles and responsibilities

  • Everyone is responsible for workplace health and safety
  • Joint work site health and safety committees are required for most workplaces
  • Changes to how Alberta Labour will monitor compliance with the new Act

3. Worker rights: strengthened

  • Right to be informed:
    • Employers must inform workers about hazards and provide access to health and safety information
  • Right to participate in OHS activities:
    • Workers must be part of health and safety discussions and committees
  • Right to refuse dangerous work:
    • If a worker believes on reasonable grounds that there is a dangerous condition at the worksite or that work constitutes a danger
    • Without reprisal
    • With pay while refusal is being investigated
    • Other workers may be assigned to the work if they are advised of the refusal, reason, and know their own right to refuse after the employer determines there is not a risk

Have a question about worker rights? Contact EHS to learn more.

How does this affect the university?

1. New Joint Work Site Health & Safety Committees

The university will assemble two new joint work site health and safety committees (JWHSC) to help guide and promote institutional health and safety programs and policy and to participate in a variety of other activities. The new committees will work closely with the current faculty/portfolio environment, health, and safety committees.

2. New definitions and obligations

The new OHS Act outlines obligations of work site parties, including employers, workers, and supervisors. Environment, Health & Safety will consult with university groups to help interpret and enforce the new Act. In addition, all supervisors (defined as anyone in charge of a work site or who directs the work of others) must complete the Supervisory EHS Professional Development program.

3. New content: psychological and social well being

Under the new OHS Act, work site parties are responsible either to prevent or to refrain from causing or participating in violence and harassment in the workplace. Environment, Health & Safety is working with Human Resource, university wellness providers, and other community stakeholders to coordinate our response to reports of violence and harassment in the workplace.

4. New reporting requirements: serious incidents and near misses

The new OHS Act requires immediate reporting of "serious incidents," defined to include events such as uncontrolled fires or explosions, as well as injuries that result in hospital admission. Environment, Health & Safety has revised the current incident reporting protocol to ensure that Alberta Labour is notified of serious incidents as soon as possible. Visit the incident reporting page to learn more.

The Government of Alberta is also working on a provincial system to facilitate the reporting of potentially serious incidents (i.e., serious near misses).

5. Other changes

The OHS Regulation and Code are also undergoing revisions. Environment, Health & Safety will continue to monitor the process and to implement changes in collaboration with the university community. Read more about the occupational health and safety changes on the Government of Alberta website or contact