Ensuring workplace safety is the shared responsibility of WorkSafeBC, employers, and employees. All three have different roles to play in ensuring workplace safety is a priority.
WorkSafeBC is a provincial body set up to maintain a safe, healthful working environment at job sites throughout the province. In addition to providing employers and workers with guidance and assistance when they are setting up health and safety programs, WorkSafeBC, has specific workplace responsibilities.
Under the Workers Compensation Act, WorkSafeBC is responsible for:
- Inspecting places of employment
- Investigating accidents and the causes of industrial diseases
- Issuing orders and directions specifying means of preventing injuries and industrial disease
- Assisting and advising employers and workers in developing health and safety programs
- Educating workers about industrial health and safety
- Providing living allowances, rehabilitation, and retraining for workers injured on the job
- Collecting contributions to an accident fund from employers and distributing money from the fund to injured workers
WorkSafeBC is a regulatory body and can order unsafe job sites closed until they are made safe. It is also responsible for issuing fines and penalties to employers as a result of workplace accidents.
WorkSafeBC dictates that every employer must make a copy of the Regulation readily available at each place of employment so workers can refer to it. This may be done either by including a hard copy version with other safety information that is provided to employees as a part of their training, or by providing instructions on how to access the Regulation online. The Regulation begins with a general explanation of terms, the procedure for notification of injury, and first aid requirements.
The Act lists many, but not all, of the responsibilities of all employers. A few of these responsibilities are noted below. Additional conditions are noted in the OHS Regulation.
The employer must ensure that:
- All work is carried out without undue risk of injury or industrial disease
- Machinery and equipment are capable of safely performing the functions for which they are used
- All permanent and temporary buildings and structures are capable of withstanding any stresses likely to be imposed on them
- All buildings, excavation structures, machinery, equipment, tools, and places of employment are maintained in good condition so workers will not be endangered
- Regular inspections are made to prevent structures, grounds, excavations, tools, equipment, machinery, and work from becoming unsafe
- Any unsafe conditions are corrected without delay
- Each worker is supplied, at no cost, with all protective safety equipment required by WorkSafeBC regulations
- All workers are instructed in the safe performance of their duties
- An accident prevention program is set up
- There is a safe means of entry to and exit from the work area
- Firefighting equipment is provided and maintained
- Workers with physical or mental impairment are not assigned to work where their impairment endangers themselves or others
- No one enters or remains, or is permitted to remain, on the premises of any place of employment while that person’s ability to work is so affected by alcohol, drugs, or other substances as to endanger his or her health or safety, or that of any other person
Workers are responsible for their own safety on the job. This means that you have the right to refuse to do any act or operate any tool, appliance, or equipment when you have reasonable cause to believe that to do so would put you in danger.
It is your responsibility to wear proper clothing for the job site and to use the PPE provided by your employer or required for your job.
As a worker, you should keep the following personal responsibilities in mind:
- You must not remove any safety equipment from machines or equipment. This includes shields from grinders, mixers, etc.
- You must have had adequate instruction about a piece of machinery or equipment before you use it.
- You must make sure that no machine, equipment, or tool is used in a way that would cause injury to someone else.
- You must make sure that there are safe entrances to and exits from the workplace.
- You must make sure that the work area is safe for the movement of workers, equipment, and materials.
- You must wear protective eyewear when using grinders and other equipment that may be hazardous to the eyes.
Health and Safety Committees
The employer is responsible for setting up an accident prevention program. As part of the program, a health and safety committee must be established for any employer with more than 20 full-time employees. Employers with fewer than 20 full-time employees are not required to have a safety committee, but it is an industry best practice to do so.
This committee is required to have at least four members who are experienced in the workplace. The membership of the committee must represent both employers and workers, and the number of employer representatives must never outnumber the number of worker representatives.
It is the committee’s responsibility to help create a safe place to work, recommend actions that will improve the effectiveness of the health and safety program, and promote enforcement of WorkSafeBC regulations.
Contravention of Regulations
The OHS Regulation clearly defines contravention as well as the liability of contravening the Regulation.
- A contravention of this Regulation will be deemed to be a contravention by the employer and will make that employer liable for any penalty prescribed by the Workers Compensation Act.
- A contravention of this Regulation by a supervisor or a worker will be deemed to be a contravention by the supervisor and will make that supervisor liable for any penalty prescribed by the Workers Compensation Act
- A contravention of this Regulation by a worker will make that worker liable for any penalty prescribed by the Workers Compensation Act.
- A contravention of this Regulation by a person working in or contributing to the production of an industry within the scope of the Workers Compensation Act will make that person liable for any penalty prescribed by the Act.
According to the OHS Regulation, an employer must immediately notify WorkSafeBC whenever an accident occurs that:
- Results in serious injury to or the death of a worker
- Involves a major structural failure or collapse of a building, bridge, tower, crane, hoist, temporary construction support system, or excavation
- Involves the major release of a hazardous substance
- Is an incident required by regulation to be reported
Note that “near misses” occur more often than accidents. Near misses are incidents in which there is no visible injury or damage but that could have resulted in serious injury, in death, or property damage. They are generally more reflective of a business’s operating guideline than are actual accidents or injuries, and they should also be reported to WorkSafeBC.Reporting near misses is a good way to prevent their recurrence. They should be seen as a learning opportunity and not as a reason to question the ability of the people involved.
Prompt investigation of incidents should be conducted so that other employees will not get injured in the same way. Everyone in the business has a role to play, and you must report accidents and incidents to your supervisor.
According to the Regulation, an employer must immediately undertake an investigation into the cause of any accident or other incident that:
- Is required to be reported under the Act
- Results in injury to a worker requiring medical treatment
- Does not involve injury to a worker, or involves only minor injury not requiring medical treatment, but has a potential for causing serious injury to a worker
- Is an incident required by regulation to be investigated
This list does not apply in the case of a vehicle accident occurring on a public street or highway.
- http://www2.worksafebc.com/Publications/OHSRegulation/Introduction.asp#AboutOccupationalHealthSafetyRegulation ↵
- Worker Compensation Act, Occupational Health and Safety Regulation Section 2.8. http://www.bclaws.ca/Recon/document/ID/freeside/296_97_01 ↵
- http://www.worksafebc.com/claims/report_injury/default.asp ↵
- http://www.worksafebc.com/workers/improving_health_and_safety_at_work/reporting_accidents_and_incidents/default.asp ↵