By Ian Croft
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) legislation is a very important element for both employees and employers due to it laying out safely standards and guidelines for worker safety. Because of this, the Alberta Ministry of Labour and Immigration has made it more convenient for everybody to access it with a new searchable version of it online.
“Updated and easy-to-understand OHS legislation will help workers and job creators ensure safe and healthy workplaces that support jobs and Alberta’s economic recovery,” said Kaycee Madu, Minister of Labour and Immigration in a press release. “This new online search tool is a significant step in ensuring that OHS rules are easy to reference and apply.”
The idea of this online OHS legislation was proposed in mid-2021 and was designed to coincide with the new OHS act. This online resource was released as soon as development and testing was completed which took approximately one year.
“We are excited about the release of the OHS legislation search tool. The Government of Alberta is taking important steps to ensure that all Albertans are able to access health and safety legislation quickly and efficiently,” said Carola von Sass, director of Alberta Forest Products Association. “This is a real step forward in accessibility for our members and hopefully a glimpse of future innovations to come.”
Roy Dallmann, press secretary at the Labour and Immigration Ministry of Alberta, also gave some more information on this new method to access the OHS legislation and how it could benefit the agricultural industry here in Southern Alberta.
“Whether it’s a farmer in a vehicle or whether it’s somebody working in the plant; when you need information on best practises, you need to know what is the right thing to do you need an easily accessible and understandable (information) where you are and when you need it,” said Dallmann in an interview with the Times. “Especially if you’re somebody rural — you’re in a combine in the back fields, and having to take the trip back, you’re losing time in order to get back to where your hard copy of the document is going to be to read through it — you’re wasting a lot of time that way. This way we have it so you know if you are in the middle of the fields, and you need some information on what really is the recommended way to do this, you’ve got it at your fingertips.”
Dallmann also explained one of the goals they had when bringing the OHS into a digital format.
“Part of it is you want to make sure that you got all of the processes behind the sheet set up —so you know yes hardcopy is still the official source of truth — get this tested to make sure it is searchable in a way that users can actually use it,” said Dallmann. “There would’ve been a lot of field testing to this so it is not just putting it online. It’s putting it online so that’s in a way that’s functional to all employees and employers that need to use it.”
Despite this online resource being unable to directly link to the PDF of the Queen’s Printer version of the OHS legislation, the Queens Printer version is available online on its website, and Dallmann explained why they came to this decision.
“I know that each of the pages are going to be as faithfully represented as possible but I think the reason why they’re having that source of truth be the hardcopy, we know that the Queen’s Printer copy is always going to be the most up-to-date,” said Dallmann. “There may be a lag between when that is updated when those changes are reflected there and when they appear online. I believe that was the concern behind the source of truth, but I know that the pages accurately reflect the section and chapter that you’re dealing with, so you would be able to go and say, ‘OK, I am looking for this area/this section/this chapter/this line’ to be able to go back and flip fairly quickly to the actual official document.”
Finally, Dallmann took a moment to encourage everybody to try out the new online version of the OHS.
“The one thing that I would encourage people to do is actually try it,” said Dallmann. “Try using/searching/bookmarking pages that you go to. Find out if it’s working for your needs because we had stakeholders who are looking at this. I would encourage people to A) look at it and say ‘can I understand it, can I find it, can I find a quickly no matter where I am?’ and don’t hesitate to send us back feedback if there’s something they want to see. To me, this is a really important red tape reduction and a really important safety initiative that you’ve got people having access to what they need, when they need it, where they need it. We want to make sure that if there are any recommendations people have to make this better, give them to us, and the OHS department will definitely look into any improvements they can to make sure that this is as functional and it’s exciting for employees and employers as we believe it is.”