In October 2020, Quebec’s Labor Minister introduced Bill 59—or the Act to Modernize the Occupational Health and Safety Regime—to tighten workplace safety regulations in place and mitigate workplace risks.
Bill 59 requires companies to undertake end-to-end evaluation of all the running projects and ensure that they comply with the latest modifications provisioned in the regulation. The new law proposes a review of the workplace-related illnesses or injuries and makes provision for the inclusion of post-traumatic stress along with nine new types of cancers resulting from poor working conditions. In the new law, amendments will also address psychological risks in any injury prevention program.
The workplace safety board of Canada, CNESST, paid nearly USD 3.2 billion dollars in 2018 for 225 deaths and 103,406 claims of workplace injuries. By investing more in proactive prevention, Quebec expects the cost of paying out worker indemnities will significantly reduce.
This new bill is largely being seen as a much-needed update to the previous Act Respecting Occupational Health and Safety (AOHS) and the Act Respecting Industrial Accidents and Occupational Disease (AIAOD). Both laws were enacted over 30 years ago and were not extensively reviewed since their approval.
Key amendment modifications include:
Establishment of Occupational Diseases Committee – allows a scientific committee to deal with occupational diseases and make necessary recommendations regarding occupational diseases.
Modifications in Occupational Diseases Regulation – aimed at ensuring workers get access to the compensation regime associated with occupational diseases.
Allocation of Cost Stemming from Workplace Injuries – gives CNESST privilege to credit employers the costs of benefits resulting from workplace mishaps or incidents.
Employee Rehabilitation Measures Post Injury – provides employers with the right to reinstate an injured worker post rehabilitation once he or she is ready to carry on with employment, even after the period designated for exercising rights of return to work is over.
The Establishment of Medical Assessment Office – this Office will now consider a worker’s physical as well mental and functional limitations.
Prevention Mechanisms – provides an opportunity for companies to create a single prevention program and implement it across multiple establishments.
Establishment of Occupational Health and Safety Committee – this Committee will develop trainings for health and safety in the workplace.
Appointment of Health and Safety Representative – proposes that organizations will have to appoint at least one health and safety representative from among their employees when an OHS committee is formed.
Maintenance of a Register of Contaminants – creates and maintains an employee-run database of dangerous substances and contaminants that are present in their worksite.
Protection against Physical or Psychosocial Violence – makes it mandatory for employers to take necessary actions to ensure that workers are protected from physical or psychosocial violence.
The latest amendments eradicate all references to varying levels of risk and proposes that the prevention system will be applicable to all organizations across industries with 20 employees or more, yet some proposed changes drew heavy criticism.
Earlier this year, a group of lawyers, doctors, and unions wrote letters objecting to the changes. These groups believed the law had negative consequences and came across as sexist because sectors that predominantly employed women such as education and health were exempted out of the prevention mechanisms.
Complying with new safety laws and regulations can be challenging and can come at a cost, yet having certain supply chain management processes in place like vetting contractors that already have the requisite levels of compliance can reduce any burdens.