Six years after his initial audit, the auditor general of Alberta has found the province still has not fully implemented process improvements to ensure employers are following all occupational health and safety orders issued to them.
While the Department of Labour was successful in implementing most of the 2010 recommendations around “promoting and enforcing compliance” — such as implementing a new inspection reporting system, pursuing administrative penalties and developing an escalating compliance policy — Merwan Saher was not satisfied with its extension policy. The department approves time extensions for employers to fix safety violations specified in compliance orders issued by the department.
“Some department staff provided employers with multiple time extensions to fix problems, contrary to departmental operating procedures,” said Saher. “(And) officers documented time extensions ?on stop-work and stop-use orders when none ?were required.”
Saher again recommended the department have clear procedures for OHS officers when they give employers and workers extra time to fix work site health and safety problems, specifically:
• ?obtaining and documenting a ?manager’s approval
• ?documenting the number of times ?an extension can be given
• ?ensuring extensions are given only ?when necessary.
“Without adequate systems to enforce compliance with occupational health and safety legislation for those employers and workers who persistently fail to comply, the health and safety of workers continue to be exposed to otherwise avoidable risks,” said Saher in his report. “Employers who choose not to comply with OHS orders may gain an unfair advantage over employers who spend the time and resources to deal with and avoid contraventions.”
Alberta Minister of Labour Christina Gray said this is something her government is working on.
“Operational procedures are being reviewed around time frames for compliance, approvals for extensions and employer progress reports so it can be more effective going forward,” she said.
The report also found the labour department was failing to monitor, measure and report on its progress against OHS program goals and objectives and assess the cost effectiveness of programs. The auditor general repeated his recommendation for these processes.
“The lack of evaluation and reporting on OHS programs means the minister of labour cannot assure Albertans that programs are achieving desired results and providing value,” it said.
Gray said her government will work hard to implement the outstanding recommendations of the auditor general and she asked for a followup audit in one year.
This article originally appeared in the August/September 2016 issue of COS.
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