Category Archives: Occupational Health and Safety

Competence

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“Competent” is one of those words that pops up every now and then in Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety legislation that many people don’t think too much about, which is a huge mistake. That word means something and when you see it, you need to pause and put some thought to you’re game plan going forward.

According to the definitions found at the beginning of both the Alberta OHS Regulation and Code:

“competent” in relation to a person, means adequately qualified, suitably trained and with sufficient experience to safely perform work without supervision or with only a minimal degree of supervision.

Perhaps you are someone who grew up on a farm. At a very young age, you began helping out with chores and one of them was operating a forklift used to offload bales of hay for the farm animals. By the time you got your driver’s licence at age 16, you were an expert forklift operator. You have plenty of experience and your parents and relatives may have given you a bunch of training in how to run that piece of equipment. But until you’ve gone through a forklift training course and received a certification to prove that you’re adequately qualified, you can’t be deemed competent and can’t, by law, operate a forklift as part of your occupation.

There are lots of situations where this kind of thing comes up. For instance, all scaffolds must be inspected and tagged by a competent worker prior to use and every 21 days thereafter. (Code, Part 23, 326(3)). Again, you may have been putting up scaffold for most of your career, but unless you’ve been properly deemed competent, you’re doing it illegally and could be fined.

Bottom line: If you’re looking through the legislation to see what the Alberta OHS expectations are for a particular circumstance and you see the word “competent,” you need to stop and ask yourself three questions: Am I adequately qualified? Am I suitably trained? Do I have sufficient experience? If the answer to any of those questions is “no,” you’ve got some things to take care of prior to beginning that work or you could find yourself in a whole heap of trouble.

Flannery Safety Consulting provides services in the Lethbridge area. If you have any questions or inquiries, please don’t hesitate to contact Jim Flannery at jim@flannerysafetyconsulting.com or (403) 715-4162.

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Legislative Compliance

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A good place to start when considering what your company needs as far as a safety program is concerned is to look at what your local laws require. Here in Alberta, there are a number of safety requirements noted within Alberta’s Occupational Act, Regulation and Code. Among them are:

  • Worker’s Right to Know, including access to OHS legislation, WHMIS, practices, procedures, availability of specifications to workers, and adequate training (Act and Regulation)
  • Worker’s Right to Participate in the safety process (Code)
  • Worker’s “Right” to Refuse unsafe work (Act)
  • Report all serious incidents to OHS officers (ie. injury requiring hospital stay of more than 48 hours; fatality; unplanned fire or flood; collapse of crane; collapse of structure) (Act)
  • Orders or notices must be posted where workers can see them until the order or notice is satisfied; Acceptances must be posted or shared (Reg)
  • Written hazard assessment of the work site prior to work beginning, at reasonable intervals afterwards, when a new work process is introduced, when operations change, and before the construction of significant additions or alterations to a work site (Code)
  • Practices and procedures must be written, depending on the work to be performed (Code).
  • Appropriate number of first aiders and first aid equipment on site (Code)
  • Appropriate number of toilet facilities on site and per gender (Code)
  • Up-to-date and readily accessible MSDS for all controlled products (Code)

And this really just scratches the surface.

Once this framework is laid out, a company should be in good shape to demonstrate due diligence in dealings with Workplace Health and Safety officers. Further, it lays most of the groundwork for acquiring a Certificate of Recognition (COR) through Alberta’s Partnerships in Injury Reduction (PIR) program.

Having a COR gives a company a minimum five percent rebate on their WCB premiums—in some cases up to 20 percent, depending on the company’s historical performance. For a company that already has a good record of avoiding workplace injuries, this is easy money put back in your pocket for the simple act of protecting your most valuable asset: your people.

Flannery Safety Consulting can help you develop an effective safety program that brings you into compliance with Alberta’s OHS legislation. We can also guide you through the process of achieving a COR. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Jim at jim@flannerysafetyconsulting.com or by phone at 403-715-4162