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There have been several amendments to WorkSafeBC’s Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (OHSR) in 2023, and amendments will continue at what appears to be an unprecedented pace in the coming year. January 1, 2024, holds significant importance as it marks the commencement date for multiple OHSR amendments. The following is a summary of the changes to the OHSR that will take effect on January 1, 2024.

New Return-to-Work Requirements for Employers and Workers

As part of the B.C. government’s Bill 41, commencing on January 1, 2024, employers and workers will bear a legal duty to collaborate effectively for a prompt and safe return to work. Additionally, specific employers will be obligated to sustain employment for their injured workers under particular circumstances. These responsibilities are designated as the “duty to cooperate” and the “duty to maintain employment.”

The “duty to cooperate” imposes obligations on both workers and employers to engage in cooperative efforts with each other and with WorkSafeBC. This collaboration is aimed at identifying and offering suitable work opportunities to workers promptly and safely after an injury. To fulfill this duty, employers and workers must:

  • Initiate contact and maintain communication with each other.
  • Identify suitable work options for the injured worker, with the goal of potentially restoring their pre-injury wages.
  • Provide WorkSafeBC with the necessary information to support return-to-work initiatives.
  • Undertake any additional tasks related to the return-to-work process as may be required by WorkSafeBC.

The “duty to maintain employment” is applicable exclusively to certain employers. When an employer consistently hires 20 or more workers and has employed the injured worker for at least one year before their injury, the employer is obligated to preserve that worker’s employment, up to a point where it causes undue hardship. For instance, if a worker is deemed fit to resume their pre-injury duties, the employer must provide either the pre-injury position or an equivalent alternative. In cases where the worker cannot perform their previous role but is otherwise capable of working in a different capacity, the employer must offer the first suitable job that becomes available. The legislation also mandates that employers make any necessary adjustments to the job or workplace to accommodate an injured worker, unless these changes result in undue hardship for the employer.

Additionally, a dispute resolution mechanism has been introduced, allowing a worker to file a complaint with WorkSafeBC if they believe their employer has failed to meet these obligations (employers have the same recourse). Upon receiving the complaint, a determination must be reached within 60 days from the date the Board is notified of the dispute, or within a longer timeframe as determined by the Board.

Further, the newly introduced return-to-work requirements stipulate that if an employer terminates an employee’s position within six months of their return to work and the commencement of suitable duties, this action will be presumed as non-compliance with the regulations. However, this presumption can be countered if the employer demonstrates that the termination was not related to the employee’s injury.

To ensure adherence to the duty of cooperation and the obligation to maintain employment, WorkSafeBC will adopt a ‘support then penalty’ approach. In cases where an employer fails to meet their responsibilities or address a pertinent issue, WorkSafeBC will initiate contact to understand the situation better, discuss any challenges hindering cooperation, and offer the necessary support. Should non-compliance persist, WorkSafeBC may impose an administrative penalty, calculated based on the wage loss or other benefits paid to the employee. Conversely, if an employee is not fulfilling their duties, WorkSafeBC will reach out to provide support. However, continued non-compliance may lead to a reduction or suspension of compensation payments.

Asbestos Abatement Certification & Licencing

Effective January 1, 2024, individuals engaged in asbestos abatement work in British Columbia in connection with buildings must be trained and certified. Additionally, employers conducting asbestos abatement work are required to obtain a license. Both worker certification training and employer licensing are distinct processes that must be completed by the specified date.

Certification for Persons Performing Asbestos Abatement Work

WorkSafeBC has published a list of approved training providers for asbestos abatement certification on its website. All workers involved in asbestos abatement activities related to buildings must undergo training and obtain certification. The required level of training and certification varies depending on the type of asbestos work being performed. The approved training providers are located in various cities throughout British Columbia, with some offering online training options as well. The table below details the specific training levels required.

Level of Training Scope of Practice Prerequisites
Level 1
Foundational Awareness
Transport asbestos-containing materials

Dispose of asbestos-containing waste

Prerequisites: None
Level 2
Asbestos Safety
Perform abatement work Prerequisites: Level 1 (unless the course combines both levels)
Level 3
Asbestos Safety Leader
Level 1 and Level 2 scope of practice

Plan, oversee, and manage asbestos abatement sites

Prerequisites: Level 2
Level S
Surveyor Safety
Perform asbestos surveys Prerequisites: Level 1 (unless the course combines both levels)

 

If you have completed an asbestos training course with an approved provider in British Columbia since January 1, 2020, you might be eligible for full or partial credit towards certification. In such cases, please reach out to your training provider to determine if your previous training can contribute towards your certification.

If you already have an asbestos training certificate from another province, contact Certification Services to find out if it is valid for work in B.C.

For those holding an asbestos training certificate from another province, it is advisable to contact Certification Services to verify its validity for work in British Columbia.

Licensing for Asbestos Abatement Contractors

Starting January 1, 2024, asbestos abatement contractors will be required to possess a valid license to undertake asbestos abatement work related to buildings. This includes the following types of work:

  • Removing asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) from buildings as part of renovation, restoration, or demolition
  • Removing ACMs from buildings as a consequence of a hazardous materials inspection
  • Conducting asbestos abatement work during the course of work in another industry (e.g., plumbing, flooring)
  • Transporting and/or disposing of asbestos waste
  • Performing asbestos surveys

Employers whose regular work activities might involve encountering asbestos-containing materials, but who do not engage in asbestos abatement as outlined above, are not expected to require a license. Nevertheless, these employers must continue adhering to Parts 5, 6, and 20 of the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Regulation. This includes providing adequate training and instruction to workers who may be exposed to asbestos, ensuring their health and safety.

Concrete Pump Operator Certification

WorkSafeBC is implementing mandatory certification for concrete pump operators. Starting on January 1, 2024, anyone operating a concrete pump or placing boom at a workplace must hold a valid concrete pump operator certificate or work under the supervision of someone with a valid certificate.

Currently, the Certified Concrete Pump Operator (CCPO) Program from the BC Construction Safety Alliance (BCCSA) is the only WorkSafeBC-approved certification program.

The CCPO certification program currently offers certifications in 5 pump types:

  • Tower Placing Booms,
  • High-Pressure Line Pumps (over 1,233 psi),
  • Low-Pressure Line Pumps (1,233 psi & under),
  • Truck Mounted Boom Pumps – 41 metres and under, and
  • Truck Mounted Boom Pumps – over 41 metres

Obtaining the Truck Mounted Boom Pump – over 41 metres certification will also grant an operator the Truck Mounted Boom Pump – 41 metres & under and Low-Pressure Line Pump certifications. Obtaining the High-Pressure Line Pump certification will also grant the operator the Low-Pressure Line Pump certification.

To be certified, an operator will have to pass two exams:

  1. Virtually Proctored exam – $250
  2. Practical exam – $1500 (do be done at your workplace)

Resources:

WorkSafeBC:  Asbestos Training, Certification & Licensing Information found
WorkSafeBC: Approved Training Providers for Asbestos Abatement Certification
WorkSafeBC: Employers: Duty to cooperate and duty to maintain employment
BCCSA:  Certified Concrete Pump Operator