OHS Insider Month in Review – September 2017: British Columbia

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LAWS & ANNOUNCEMENTS

Workers’ Compensation
Sept.: Slightly lower injury rates and higher fatality totals were the headliners in WorkSafeBC’s 2016 Annual Report:

  • Injury rate per (100 workers): 2.21 (0.01 less than 2015)
  • Serious injury rate: 0.285 (-3%)
  • Workplace deaths: 144 (v. 122 in 2015)
  • Deaths due to occupational asbestos exposure: 64 (v. 48 in 2015)
  • Deaths from traumatic injury: 59 (v. 50 in 2015)

OELs
Sept. 1: Comments closed on WorkSafeBC’s proposal to extend the period for reviewing the Threshold Limit Value used to establish Occupational Exposure Levels for hazardous substances from one to 3 years. Tripling the length of the review window will enhance stability and give industry more time to prepare for OEL changes, the agency contends.

Manual Lifting
Sept. 12: Highlights of WorkSafeBC’s new guidelines for protecting workers who move physically-dependent persons from risk of musculoskeletal injury (MSI):

  • If eliminating MSI risks isn’t “practicable,” employers must reduce them to lowest practicable level
  • Engineering controls to consider include both mechanical, e.g., powered lifts, and non-mechanical equipment like slide sheets or transfer boards
  • In evaluating equipment, employers should consider whether it allows workers to perform required tasks, its suitability for the work space and any new hazards it may create
  • Engineering controls should be supplemented by policies, procedures and training.

Asbestos
Aug. 14: WorkSafeBC delivered a stern warning to asbestos-abatement, demolition and general contractors: Stop exposing construction workers to asbestos. So far in 2017, the agency has issued more asbestos-related fines and stop-work orders than it did in all of 2016.

Oil & Gas
Aug. 1: New OHS safety regulations (Part 23) for flow piping systems at oil and gas facilities took effect, including revisions to current integrity  assurance program requirements for flow piping systems and new rules requiring engineering documentation of restraint systems.

Clothing Allowance
June 26: WorkSafeBC clarified the rules for clothing allowances to workers wearing an upper limb brace, i.e., brace worn at or above the wrist, which will be paid at the upper and lower limb rate, effective Jan. 1, 2018.

Environmental Enforcement
Sept. 14: BC published a summary of environmental enforcement actions from across the province in the final 3 quarters of 2016. Highlights:

  • 33 orders
  • 1,922 tickets
  • 247 administrative sanctions
  • 8 administrative penalties
  • 39 court convictions
  • $630,000 in total penalties ($13+ million since 2006).