The Act to modernize the occupational health and safety system, assented to on October 6, 2021, amends, among other things, the Act respecting occupational health and safety  (“AOHS”) by extending the application of prevention and worker participation mechanisms to all sectors of activity, depending on the size of the establishments.
When the number of workers is of twenty or above in a given establishment, these amendments provide for, among other things:
- The establishment of a prevention program;
- The establishment of a health and safety committee;
- The designation of a health and safety representative.
However, these changes will come into effect at a later date, which is still unknown.
In the meantime, the CNESST has put in place an interim plan introducing prevention and participation mechanisms, which will come into force on April 6, 2022.
The obligations under this plan vary according to the number of workers as well as the employer’s economic activity sectors, which are divided into six priority groups. Each group includes economic sectors that are similar in terms of occupational health and safety risks.
Employers of establishments in priority groups 1, 2 or 3 are already required to implement a prevention program in accordance with the OHSA and must therefore continue to comply with this obligation until it comes into force.
Group 4, 5 and 6 establishments with twenty workers or more must, as of April 6, 2022, document in writing the identification and analysis of risks to the health and safety of workers. Once the risks have been identified, they must be analyzed in order to prioritize them.
Establishments with fewer than 20 workers must identify and document health and safety risks in writing.
Health and Safety Committee
Under the Interim Plan, a health and safety committee must be formed in all establishments with twenty workers or more, regardless of the priority group to which they belong.
The formation and number of representatives on the health and safety committee are determined by agreement between the employer and the workers. Otherwise, the applicable provisions of the Act to modernize the occupational health and safety system must be referred to.
The functions of the health and safety committee are to participate in the identification and analysis of risks to the health and safety of workers and to make recommendations to the employer.
Health and Safety Representative
A health and safety representative must be designated in all establishments with twenty or more workers for all priority groups. This person is designated by the certified associations or, if there is not certified association in the establishment, by the workers.
His or her duties include inspecting workplaces, identifying and reporting risks, making recommendations to the health and safety committee and filing complaints with the CNESST.
Health and Safety Liaison Officer
A health and safety liaison officer must be designated in all establishments with less than 20 workers for all priority groups. This person is designated by the certified associations, as well as the workers not represented by certified associations of the establishment, according to a method of appointment determined between them.
The officer’s responsibilities include inspecting workplaces, identifying and reporting risks, making recommendations to the health and safety committee and filing complaints with the CNESST.
Please note that an employer who employs workers in more than one establishment where activities of the same nature are carried out may form a multi-establishment approach and implement a single prevention program for some or all of these establishments. The program must also cover establishments with fewer than 20 workers. However, certain conditions must be met, namely:
- The establishments covered by the grouping must carry out activities of the same nature;
- The members of the health and safety committee must be able to perform their duties adequately for each establishment. In particular, they must be able to travel between establishments;
- The health and safety representative must be able to perform his duties adequately for each of the establishments. In particular, they must be able to travel between establishments.