August 12, 2009
Province Introduces New OHS Regulations
The Provincial Government today unveiled new occupational health and safety regulations that will greatly improve the regulatory conditions under which employers and employees work. The new regulations will replace 30-year-old regulations and will come into force on September 1.
"This is an important day for workplaces in Newfoundland and Labrador," said the Honourable Kevin O’Brien, Minister of Government Services. "These new regulations will support the safety culture in all workplaces and will reflect and, in fact, complement the safe work practices that many safety-minded employers already have in place. We wanted to ensure that we have the best possible set of regulations that meet the needs of both employers and employees of the province. I think we have achieved that and have produced a first-rate set of regulations."
In the drafting of these new regulations, the department consulted with industry, labour, employers, Provincial Government departments and anyone interested in safe work procedures. The feedback received was positive with all groups agreeing that the current regulations were outdated and did not reflect current safety practices. The consultations also highlighted the need to improve regulations related to high-risk activities.
The department engaged the Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Council during the consultation process on issues where new policy is being set.
"These new regulations are an important step forward and we were pleased to have a role in updating them," said Wayne Pardy, Chair of the Advisory Council. "These regulations are a great improvement and are clear and easy to understand the direction on various issues that affect all workplaces in this province. I acknowledge the hard work and professionalism of the members of the council, and I am extremely pleased that we were able to reach consensus on this important safety initiative that will have a truly positive impact for workers and employers in the province."
Highlights of the new regulations include:
Recent Codes and Standards – Requirements to comply with the most recent version of a named code or standard as opposed to a specific version of that code or standard which could be outdated;
Confined Space Entry - Procedures to enter an enclosed or partially enclosed space having restricted access and egress;
Fall Protection – Addition of general requirements as well as identification of fall arrest systems and construction of guardrails;
De-energization and lockout - Proper procedures for de-energizing and locking out equipment prior to performing work on that equipment;
Noise Hazards - Requirements to establish and maintain a hearing conservation program where noise exposures exceed permissible levels;
Blasting - Clarification of blaster responsibilities and industry-accepted safe blasting practices;
Ergonomic Requirements - Requirements to identify and assess risks and provide education and training to workers who may be exposed to musculoskeletal injuries;
Working Alone - Requirements to develop a written procedure for checking the well-being of employees who work alone;
Crane Operators - New requirements to certify operators who must have the appropriate trade qualification as determined by the Department of Education; and
"I commend the work of labour occupational health and safety activists who for two years worked vigilantly and diligently with government officials to ensure the regulations were not just modernized but would make a difference in the health and safety of the province’s workforce," said Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour President Lana Payne. "Consultations were extensive and we believe we have better laws as a result. We have made significant improvements and we must now ensure these new regulations have the support they need to be effective. This means education and awareness, as well as strong monitoring and enforcement and we look forward to working with the government to ensure that happens."
"The NL Employers' Council organized a committee of safety professionals that consulted on the development of these regulations," said NL Employers' Council Executive Director Richard Alexander. "A number of concerns put forward by the committee were addressed and the position of employers was well represented and well considered. Overall we are pleased with these new OH&S regulations and believe they are a step in the right direction, clarifying a number of grey areas in the previous regulations."
In addition, the Department of Government Services made changes this spring to the Occupational Health and Safety Act prior to announcing the new regulations. These changes included adding the definition of a supervisor and the duties and responsibilities of a supervisor, recommendations coming from the consultation process.
"We have extensively consulted on these regulations with many interested groups since May 2007," said Minister O’Brien. "Many organizations helped with this achievement and I thank them for their productive input. Without their help, we would not have such a forward-thinking set of regulations that are supported by our stakeholders."
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2009 08 12 11:40 a.m.
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