B.C. updates Workers Compensation Act

On May 14, several changes to British Columbia's Workers Compensation Act came into effect, including expanded stop work powers and changes to employer incident investigations.
Four amendments to the act are now in effect:

• Expanded stop work order powers: There are two major changes to stop work orders. First, the threshold for being able to issue a stop work order has changed. Changes now provide that WorkSafeBC may consider a stop work order in two circumstances:

A) When there are reasonable grounds to believe there is a high risk of serious injury, serious illness, or death
B) When an employer fails to comply with a provision of the act or the regulation and has failed to comply with an order under that provision in the previous year and there are reasonable grounds to believe that there is a risk of serious injury, serious illness, or death.

Second, the potential scope of the stop work order has been changed. A stop work order may also be made applicable to one or more of an employer’s other workplaces (a “stop operations order”) if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the same or similar unsafe working or workplace conditions exist at the other workplaces.

• Changes to employer incident investigations: There are two major changes to the requirements for employer incident investigations. First, employers are required to undertake a preliminary investigation within 48 hours of the incident. Second, employers are required to submit a full investigation report to WorkSafeBC within 30 days of an incident.

• Expanded injunction powers: The amendment provides a mechanism to deal with individuals who fail to comply with the act or regulation after WorkSafeBC has exhausted other appropriate enforcement methods. Now, the British Columbia Supreme Court will be able to grant an injunction restraining a person from carrying on in an industry, or an activity in an industry, indefinitely or until further order.

• Changes to penalty due diligence: Section 196 of the act deals with administrative penalties. Currently, WorkSafeBC has the obligation, before imposing a penalty, of determining that an employer failed to exercise due diligence. The amendment clearly places the onus of due diligence on the employer.

Other sections of the new legislation, including a provision that establishes compliance agreements, are expected to come into effect in September.

Occupational health and safety citations for employers are expected to be introduced in early 2016.