Written by Eric St–Hilaire, B.Sc., CRSP, WELL AP, Project Manager for the Occupational Health & Safety Group, at Pinchin Ltd.
The Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Code was first enacted in 2003 and its last major update was in 2009, but ministry is looking to make some changes in order to move in line with current practices and other provinces. To help update the OHS code, the government is looking to the public for review and to provide feedback on the comprehensive list of proposed changes. This survey can be completed by anyone, not just health and safety professionals, and it allows you to skip the sections that are not relevant to you. The survey ends on May 13, so take some time to make your opinions heard.
The survey can be found here Survey (gov.ab.ca).
What do some of these changes look like?
I wanted to highlight some keys items noted from taking the survey myself. There was a lot of material covered in the survey, so I focused primarily on looking at impactors to current occupational hygiene practices and support services we provide for our clients.
- Referenced Standards
I noticed that some of the changes included updates to the referenced standards. For example, the Canadian Standards Association standards pertaining to the various personal protective equipment in Part 18 of the Code. The Code had referenced standards issued before 2009 and the proposed changes in this new iteration make an effort to reference the most recent version of the appropriate standard or methods. This will come as a welcome relief to some, such as those trying to meet the CO2 standard for compressed breathing air from the older (and more stringent) standard!
- Restricted Area
In Part 4 of the Code, they have proposed to update the definition of a “restricted area” to have it apply to asbestos only, thereby dropping agents like silica and coal dust in its definition and conditions. For some industries, this can be good, since establishing a “restricted area” can prove very challenging in shifting environments.
- Required Reassessment
On the topic of asbestos, in Part 4, is the proposed change to require reassessment of identified asbestos-containing materials on an annual basis. The requirement for a Code of Practice will be proposed to be based on potential to exceed the occupational exposure limit rather than on quantity on the worksite.
- Material Exposures
Review of the material pertaining to general chemical occupational exposures, the proposed changes introduce notations for “inhalable” and “thoracic” to be in line with the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) and International Organization for Standardization/European Standardization Committee (ISO) guidelines (not to mention other provinces in Canada). This will affect media and methodology selection in testing for these affected parameters. Another notation to be introduced is the “ototoxicant” or “OTO” designation. These are for chemicals with the potential to cause hearing impairment alone or in combination with noise even below 85 dBA.
Should these changes come to force it would be a major update to the Code and will be interesting to see which items make it to the finish line of this process. Many of the changes are simple reiterations or clarification. They’ve also streamlined content to reduce redundancy. The majority of the changes I’m happy with because it brings the Code up to date with other industry standards and Provinces.
If you have any questions about the proposed changes to the Alberta Occupational Health & Safety Code and how they might affect your business if passed, please feel free to contact me or contact your local Pinchin office.