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Ask The Expert: JHSCs in Alberta

QUESTION

We are a school board in Alberta with 15 different schools. Under Bill 30, would we have to start a joint health and safety committee (JHSC) at each school with over 20 employees?

ANSWER

Yes.

EXPLANATION

You must establish a JHSC at each site that employs 20 or more employees; in addition, a health and safety representative (HSR) is required for each site with 5 to 19 employees. You can’t, in other words, have one JHSC purport to represent all the sites.

However, there’s another option. Under Section 16(4) of the OHS Act, you can apply to the Director for an exemption or variance from the JHSC requirements based on the work conditions of the particular site(s), including:

  • The nature of the work done at the site;
  • Union support for the exemption; and/or
  • The frequency of injury or illness at the site or particular industry involved (like a school).

MY SUGGESTION

The exemption option might make sense especially since at first blush, a school seems like the kind of site that would be a strong candidate for an exemption as long as it has the unions behind it. I also suggest you talk to other school boards and find out what they’re doing.