Notices and reports: How do Ontario and Alberta compare?

Green Book 101: Why the employer has a responsibility to preserve the 'wreckage'

Notices and reports: How do Ontario and Alberta compare?

Notices and reports are covered under Sections 51 to Section 53.1 of Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (Green Book). In Ontario, regulations are relatively prescriptive and depend on the industry or the nature of the incident. How do they compare to other provinces? In this article, we will be taking a look at the key parts of Ontario’s reporting regulations to see how they compare with those in Alberta.

In any case, workplaces need to report fatalities, occupational illnesses, incidents and “critical injuries.” While the first two seem self-explanatory, what the regulations deem as a critical injury may seem broad.

“For the purposes of the act, critical injury means an injury of a serious nature that places life in jeopardy,” says Paul Belair, Corporate Director – Health and Safety, Equinox Gold. “If you’re at a point where your body could go into shock from your injury, you need to report it.”

Critical injury also includes injuries that produce unconsciousness, result in substantial loss of blood (specific amount is not specific), consists of burns to a major portion of the body, causes the loss of sight in an eye, and involved the fracture or amputation of a leg or arm (but not a finger or toe).

Who needs to report?

Broadly, the person (or people) responsible for reporting depends on what type of work environment you’re in. For example, on a construction project the entity responsible is the constructor (the one that oversees the whole project). If there is no constructor, then it is the employer’s responsibility.

Generally, the reportable incident, illness, injury or fatality should be reported to the company’s joint health and safety committee (JHSC), to the Ministry of Labour (MOL), and to the union (if there is one).

If someone is killed or critically injured, you must immediately notify all three, and submit a written report within 48 hours to the Ministry of Labour. If a person is injured and unable to do their usual tasks, or requires medical attention because of an explosion or fire, you must submit a written notification to the JHSC and the union within four days of the accident. If a worker has an occupational illness, you must submit a written notice within four days of being advised.

If there is an incident at a construction site, mine, diving operation or relating to x-ray safety, a written report needs to be submitted within two days to the MOL, JHSC and union. In some cases, an engineer’s report is also required within 14 days.

Read more: Why are there so few prescriptive safety regulations for farming employers?

Site wreckage

The employer has a responsibility to preserve the “wreckage”. By this, the regulations mean that if a person is killed or critically you can’t change anything on the scene

“What ends up happening is that the scene becomes a property of the Ministry of Labour for them to do their investigations and gather information,” says Belair. You can only alter it if it’s to prevent more suffering or saving life, if there’s a public utility service, or if there is any damage to equipment or property.

As for the form, you can either download a PDF copy from the Ministry of Labour’s website, or come up with your own template. Belair says that “it’s important when you do these notifications that you follow exactly what the Act is asking you to report,” and to not over-report or provide unnecessary details. Employers should keep a copy of the report for at least three years.

What about Alberta?

Alberta’s reporting regulations are not as prescriptive as in Ontario. In addition, Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Act includes an explanation guide which helps make the language in the regulations more accessible.

Similarly to Ontario, “you can’t disturb the scene until [the investigators] come to the site,” though there are also caveats such as moving equipment to prevent further suffering or granting access to provide emergency care.

In Alberta, injuries, illnesses or incidents that result in the death of a worker are to be reported on. But there are differences with Ontario. For example, in Ontario a fractured arm is definitely reportable but in Alberta it is not necessarily reportable. The definition of “serious injury” is more loose.

Belair says that this is because in Alberta they want to leave this to the internal responsibility system – they want the employers, workers and unions to come together and “it gives them the opportunity to determine what compliance is themselves.”

In certain circumstances, “potential incidents” may also need to be reported – for example, potentially fatal near misses.

Another major difference with Ontario is that in Alberta, you can submit your report via an online portal. And you need to keep the report for two years.