New Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Act: Changes to Owner Obligations

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the new one from alberta Occupational Health and Safety Act entered into force on December 1, 2021.[1]

New Occupational Health and Safety Act, SA 2020, c O-2.2 (the “New law) repeals the first Occupational Health and Safety Act, SA 2017 c O-2.1 (on Old law“).

This article summarizes what has changed and what has remained the same for “owners” under the new law.

The definition of an “owner”

The definition of “owner” will not change. An “owner” will continue to be defined as follows:

“The person who is registered with Land Titles Act as the owner of the land on which work is being done or can be done, or the person who enters into an agreement with the owner to be responsible for complying with the owner’s obligations under this Act, the regulations and the OHS Code , but does not include a person who occupies land or premises used as a private residence unless a business, trade or profession is exercised there.[2]

The general requirement of the old law that if a person has at least two defined functions (for example, as “owner” and as “employer”), that person must fulfill the obligations of all those functions , did not change. If a person has two or more functions under the new law “with regard to the same site”, this person must fulfill the obligations of each function.[3]

How will owners’ obligations change under the new law?

First, the new law appears to expand the owner’s obligation to maintain the land, infrastructure and any buildings or premises on the land in a safe manner.

The general owner’s obligation under the old law was as follows – note the emphasis on “control”:

“Each owner must ensure, as far as is reasonably possible to do so, that the land, the infrastructure and any building or premises on the land which is under the control of the owner is provided and maintained in a way that does not endanger the health and safety of workers or any other person.[4] [emphasis added]

In comparison, the general owner’s obligation under the new law states the following, which does not refer to “control”:

“Each owner must ensure, as far as is reasonably possible to do so, that the land, infrastructure and any building or premises on the land are provided and maintained in a manner which does not endanger the health and safety of workers or any other person. “[5]

This revised wording suggests that the general owner’s obligation, above, is not limited only to the land, infrastructure or premises on the land over which the owner has control.

Second, the new law uses more general wording that can encompass owners, without specifically referring to owners. While this wording may not change the obligations of owners, it does require a heightened awareness and understanding of what, specifically, owners are responsible for.

For example, the old law expressly stipulated that if an “owner” had received an acceptance,[6] the “owner” must ensure that it is respected:

“A prime contractor, a contractor, an employer, a self-employed person, a supplier, a service provider, an owner or a group of one or more of these parties to whom an acceptance is issued must ensure that the acceptance, including any conditions, conditions or requirements relating to the acceptance, or the original legislative requirement is fulfilled. “[7]

In contrast, the new law does not specifically refer to “owners” in the context of acceptances, but rather refers in general terms to a “person” who has received an acceptance:

“A person or class of persons to whom an acceptance is issued must ensure that the acceptance or the original legislative requirement is met. “[8]

This type of general wording appears in several places in the new law. More examples are provided later in this article. Owners should therefore be aware that they could be included in the expression “person or class of persons”, depending on the context of certain provisions of the new law, even if they are not explicitly mentioned.

It is important for owners to have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities in relation to other parties on the job site, such as prime contractors, and to ensure that they are aware of their responsibilities. Solid and clear drafting of contracts remains an important tool for articulating and assigning responsibilities for occupational health and safety from the start of a project.

Other obligations of owners

Some requirements of the old law regarding homeowner obligations have not changed significantly, but they are worth reviewing to ensure that owners are aware of their legal obligations and continue to comply with them:

  • Under section 9 (2) of the new law, an owner “shall ensure that any hazard identified by the owner is communicated to all workers, employers, employer contractors, prime contractors, suppliers and contractors. services that perform work, or can be reasonably expected to perform work activities, in relation to the land, infrastructure and any building or premises on the land.
  • Section 55 of the new law requires an owner to post a copy of an order issued to him that is “relevant to the work site” and to post it in a “conspicuous place on the work site”. as soon as the owner receives it, and as long as the order remains in effect. This can be accomplished by providing the order in electronic format, provided that workers and the joint health and safety committee or health and safety representative (if there is one) “are informed of the orders and have easy access to them ”.[9]
  • Section 20 (6) states that a “person” who receives an acceptance must ensure that the acceptance or the original legislative requirement is met.
  • Section 21 (4) states that a “person” who receives an allowance must ensure that the allowance or the original legislative requirement is met.[10]
  • Subsection 22 (4) states that a “person” to whom an approval is issued must ensure that the original legislative approval or requirement is met.[11]
  • Section 23 (3) states that a “person” to whom recognition applies must ensure that the recognition or the original legislative requirement is met.[12]

A detailed review of policies and contracts with respect to owner obligations is recommended. Miller Thomson LLP is a leader in occupational health and safety law and is available to help your organization understand the impact of the new law and update your policies and contracts accordingly.


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