The BC Government passed Bill 9, also known as the Workers Compensation Amendment Act (2015) on May 14, 2015.
What is Bill 9?
Bill 9 expands WorkSafe BC’s powers to deal with non-compliance as well as increase an employers’ obligations with respect to workplace health and safety.
Bill 9 has four specific objectives.
- Provide a range of new safety enforcement tools.
- Shorten the process for finalizing financial penalties to improve their effectiveness as an enforcement tool.
- Ensure timely employer investigations of workplace incidents and reports.
- Enhance workplace safety expertise on the WorkSafeBC Board of Directors.
When employers are non-compliant, Bill 9 expands WorkSafeBC’s ability to:
- issue stop work orders where unsafe conditions present a risk to workers.
- seek a court order restraining most egregious employers from operating in an industry.
- issue fines up to $1,000 for less serious contraventions
- enter into Compliance Agreement with the employer.
Why do we need Bill 9?
Bill 9 is needed to enable WorkSafeBC to deal with health and safety risks in the workplace earlier and more firmly.
In 2012 four workers lost their lives in sawmill explosions in Burns Lake and Prince George.
WorkSafeBC Administrator, Gord Macatee, recommended 43 amendments to the Workers Compensation Act in his 2014 WorkSafeBC Review and Action Plan.
In July 2014 Shirley Bond, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Minister Responsible for Labour, as well as the board of directors of WorkSafeBC accepted all 43 amendments.
12 of the amendments required consideration of legislative changes.
What are the employer implications of Bill 9?
Employers must now complete a Preliminary Investigation within 48 hours of the safety incident.
Employers must undertake corrective action “without undue delay” to prevent a similar incident from occurring while a full investigation is being conducted.
Employers must also submit a Full Investigation report within 30 days or face financial penalties.
WorkSafeBC is able to enter into voluntary compliance agreements with employers for non-repeat violations, setting out what employer agrees to do and by what date.
WorkSafeBC can now impose on-the-spot financial penalties of up to $1,000 against employers for certain violations. Status quo of having no financial penalties against workers is maintained.
WorkSafeBC can issue stop work orders in workplaces where unsafe conditions present a high risk to workers.
The Court will be able to grant an injunction against employers, including directors and senior officers of a corporation, restraining them from carrying on an industry or activity if they contravene workplace safety requirements or fail to pay a penalty.