May 18, 2022

Occupational health and safety amendments in effect since April 6, 2022

On October 6, 2021, the Act to modernize the occupational health and safety regime [1] ( the “AMOHSR”) received royal assent. As you may remember, this act provides for a major reform of Quebec’s occupational health and safety legislation.

On that date, a first series of amendments came into effect. These amendments addressed the occupational diseases regime, introduced the notion of “mental well-being” to matters of occupational health and safety, determined what measures to take in terms of spousal, family or sexual violence, and recognized telework as being a workplace, among other things.

On April 6, 2022, a new series of amendments came into effect. No doubt the most significant of these were the amendments introducing the interim occupational health and safety regime.

Briefly put, the interim regime introduces a series of rules governing prevention and participation mechanisms.  These amendments are introduced to allow employers to prepare for the new amendments that will be coming into effect in approximately three years.

Prevention mechanisms

Note that the interim regime’s prevention mechanisms maintain the status quo for many employers. In fact, for employers belonging to priority groups 1, 2 and 3 in Schedule I to the Regulation respecting prevention programmes,[2] the obligation to adopt a prevention program is maintained. By way of illustration, priority groups 1, 2 and 3 include the following industries:

Priority group 1: Buildings and public works, chemicals, logging, forestry services, sawmills and shingle mills, mines, quarries and oil wells, fabricated metal products;

Priority group 2: Wood (excluding sawmills and shingle mills), rubber and plastic products, transportation equipment, primary metal, non-metallic mineral products;

Priority group 3: Government services, food and beverages, furniture and fixtures, paper and allied products, transportation and storage.

The other employers will need to identify workplace risks in writing. For establishments employing 20 workers or more, an additional obligation is provided for, namely analyzing the risks in question. Essentially, this means estimating the risks’ likelihood of occurring and their potential consequences.

While section 51(5) of the Act respecting occupational health and safety [3] already sets out an obligation to identify, control and eliminate risks to the health or safety of workers, parliament apparently deemed it appropriate to add specifications in the act.

Participation mechanisms

  • Health and safety committee

In terms of participation mechanisms, employers from priority groups 1 and 2 that have already established a health and safety committee must maintain it.

The other employers, those with establishments employing more than 20 workers, have the obligation to establish a health and safety committee.

The committee operating rules are provided for in the AMOHSR and stipulate, among other things, that the committee must meet once every three months.

  • Safety representative, health and safety representative and health and safety liaison officer

Employers that already have a safety representative within an establishment must keep him or her in office.

For the other employers, a health and safety representative must be appointed for establishments employing more than 20 workers.

Establishments employing fewer than 20 workers must appoint a health and safety liaison officer.

For these two stakeholders, the rules governing their designation, their specific duties and the terms and conditions applicable to exercising them are provided for in the AMOHSR.

  • “Multi-establishment” approach

In closing, note that the AMOHSR provides for the possibility of grouping establishments for the purposes of the risk analysis described above. However, employers must meet all of the conditions of application set forth in the AMOHSR. This type of approach (often referred to as a “multi-establishment” approach) allows, among other things, for a single occupational health and safety committee to be established for this group and a single health and safety representative to be appointed.

Employers that are required to adopt one prevention program per establishment, such as employers from priority groups 1, 2 and 3, are excluded from the “multi-establishment” approach. This naturally represents a significant proportion of employers in Quebec.

It bears noting that the next series of amendments to the AMOHSR will be coming into force on October 6, 2022. An update will follow to provide more information.

For more details on the amendments made by the AMOHCSR, we invite you to contact the members of our team.

[1] SQ 2021, c 27

[2] chapter S-2.1, r. 10

[3] chapter S-2.1

Author: Carl Trudeau

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