EDMONTON, Alta. - The province of Alberta has launched a new Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Code, and carriers that aren't aware of the changes could find themselves shelling out big bucks in fines.
EDMONTON, Alta. – The province of Alberta has launched a new Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Code, and carriers that aren’t aware of the changes could find themselves shelling out big bucks in fines.
In an effort to reduce workplace accidents by 40 per cent from 2000 levels by the end of 2004, the province has revamped its entire OHS Act. Eleven regulations under the Act have been replaced by the new OHS Code, and the grace period for implementation ends Apr. 30.
Starting May 1 the new code will be enforced with steep penalties handed out to companies that are not in compliance. There will also be an ongoing increase in unannounced worksite inspections.
Three regulations contained in the new code are of particular interest to carriers. One involves specific standards for safe lifting; another requires all carriers to implement a health and safety plan; and yet another new rule requires carriers to identify hazards through a written assessment.
Chris Chodan, a communications officer with Alberta Human Resources and Employment, says one of the most important changes is the need for a health and safety plan.
“You were (previously) still responsible for taking all practical measures to protect the health and safety of your employees and any employee working on that site, but the actual requirement for a plan wasn’t there,” explains Chodan.
“We’re taking it a step further and saying you have to have a plan to show that you have thought through all the practical measures you can take.”
He says the health and safety plan will vary from company to company with some being far more detailed than others.
“If you have toxic chemicals you’re carrying around then it gets more complex than if you’re trucking lumber or something along those lines,” says Chodan. “If you’re trucking lumber straight from a mill, there’s more risk associated with that than if you’re taking it from a yard. It really varies from site to site.”
For more information about developing a health and safety plan, carriers can visit www3.gov.ab.ca/hre/whs/expert/index.asp.
Chodan says a health and safety plan doesn’t necessarily have to be a huge undertaking.
“People tend to assume they have to produce telephone book-sized documents,” Chodan says.
“It maybe actually a fairly small document but as long as it contains all the measures required for due diligence on your worksite and with your fleet of vehicles and they are practical measures you can implement, then you’ve done your job.
“That’s what we’re looking for – the result is more important than the format. Did you make the worksite as safe as you could practically make it?”
The Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) has been educating its members about the new OHS Code.
Mayne Root, director of compliance and regulatory affairs says he’s yet to hear any concerns from carriers.
“I certainly have not been hearing a whole lot of negatives about it but I’m not sure a lot of the companies have looked into it in any detail yet,” he says.
However, with the grace period rapidly drawing to a close, it’s time for carriers take a close look at it before severe penalties begin to be handed out.
Bruce Stanley, trainer, program developer and safety co-ordinator with the AMTA’s Edmonton office, says most carriers have safety standards that are well ahead of the new legislation.
For instance, participants of the Certificate of Recognition (COR) safety program are required to develop OHS plans.
However, there are still some smaller carriers out there that may not have a plan in place and Stanley urges them to develop one immediately to comply with the new code.
“It’s one thing to have a safety program and it’s another thing to know what’s inside of it and it’s another thing to do what it says,” Stanley says.
“With the new penalties anybody and everybody in the company is accountable. Even the dispatcher, if he endangers someone, can be held personally accountable in the court of law now.”
The AMTA offers two courses that help carriers develop their own OHS plan.
The first, intended for small carriers, is a one-day transportation safety basics course which outlines OHS issues and how to build a safety program.
The other program, targeted for medium- to large-sized carriers is a three-day program that goes into more detail and concludes with an internal auditors’ course.
For more details about the programs, call the AMTA at 877-448-7456.
While carriers should be cognizant of the new OHS Code and its implications, workplace accidents in the trucking sector have decreased in recent years, says Stanley.
“It’s on the decline but not as fast as we wish it to be,” he says.
“We still have a lot of incidents that do happen but as an association we’re here to help the companies develop and institute programs and/or training to hopefully reduce or eliminate accidents on the worksite.”
While 2003 accident statistics are still being tabulated, the trucking industry reduced its lost-time claims by 8.7 per cent in 2002 compared to 2001.
However, there were still 2,371 lost time claims that year – which is still too high as far as Alberta Human Resources and Employment is concerned.
If the department is to meet its target of reducing workplace accidents by 40 per cent from 2000 levels, the trucking industry will have to play it’s part.