In the early 1900s
's population and workforce
was growing rapidly and had a desperate need for a compensation system.
Forestry, fishing, and mining were the province's core industries — and working
conditions in the woods, on the boats, and in the mines were often shockingly
dangerous. In the worst mining disaster
in the province's history, 148 miners lost their lives in a gas explosion at
the Vancouver Coal and Land Co. mine in 1887. Their widows received little
compensation from the company other than basic housing and food. British Columbia
The long-awaited passage of B.C.'s Workmen's Compensation Act came in 1902 but it did not come into force until 1917, when the Workmen's Compensation Board was finally created. Now, 92 years later, industry is required by law to do the following:
1. Practice Due Diligence
Due diligence means that employers shall take all reasonable precautions, under the particular circumstances, to prevent injuries or accidents in the workplace.
To exercise due diligence, an employer must implement a plan to identify possible workplace hazards and carry out the appropriate corrective action to prevent accidents or injuries arising from these hazards.
The employer must have in place written OH&S policies, practices, and procedures. These would demonstrate that the employer carried out workplace safety audits, identified hazardous practices and hazardous conditions and made necessary changes to correct these conditions, and provided employees with information to enable them to work safely.
The employer must provide the appropriate training and education to the employees so that they understand and carry out their work according to the established polices, practices, and procedures.
The employer must train the supervisors to ensure they are competent persons, as defined in legislation.
The employer must monitor the workplace and ensure that employees are following the policies, practices and procedures. Written documentation of progressive disciplining for breaches of safety rules is considered due diligence.
There are obviously many requirements for the employer but workers also have responsibilities. They have a duty to take reasonable care to ensure the safety of themselves and their coworkers - this includes following safe work practices and complying with rules and regulations.
The employer should have an accident investigation and reporting system in place. Employees should be encouraged to report "near misses" and these should be investigated also. Incorporating information from these investigations into revised, improved policies, practices and procedures will also establish the employer is practicing due diligence.
The employer should document, in writing, all of the above steps: this will give the employer a history of how the company's occupational health and safety program has progressed over time. Second, it will provide up-to-date documentation that can be used as a defence to charges in case an accident occurs despite an employer's due diligence efforts.
All of the elements of a "due diligence program" must be in effect before any accident or injury occurs.
2. Supervision (Good Supervision)
The Workers’ Compensation Act requires, “Provisions by the employer for the instruction and supervision of workers in the safe performance of their work.” Necessary, by nature of the Workers’ Compensation Act, are the use of a written and signed Policy Statement (a statement of the employer's aims and the responsibilities of the employer, supervisors and workers, signed by senior management), effective supervision, provisions for holding periodic management meetings for the purpose of reviewing health and safety activities and incident trends, and for the determination of necessary courses of action.
3. New Worker Orientation and Ongoing Training for Workers
New workers need to be properly oriented and exposed to their responsibilities as well as the company’s policies and procedures. The WCB Act requires “appropriate written instructions, available for reference by all workers, to supplement this Occupational Health and Safety Regulation,” Companies are required to maintain written records of training.
Inspections include provision for the “regular inspection of premises, equipment, work methods and work practices, at appropriate intervals, to ensure that prompt action is undertaken to correct any hazardous conditions found, and equipment (Log Books), identifying hazards (WHMIS) and controlling hazards (Using Elimination, Engineering (Maintenance) or Administrative Controls (Policies, Written Procedures, Signage, Education/Training, Supervision, Discipline). Also required are annual reviews and follow-ups by the OH&S Committee.
The Act requires “provisions for the prompt investigation of incidents to determine the action necessary to prevent their recurrence”. This includes investigations of near-misses and accidents using a mandatory reporting policy and the maintenance of records and statistics, including reports of inspections and incident investigations, with provision for making this information available to the joint committee or worker health and safety representative and, upon request, to an officer. A proper investigation includes recommendations and review by the Joint OH&S Committee.
6. Personal Protective Equipment
It is a requirement by law that employers generally provide, and that workers wear, personal protective equipment and that employers annually review their PPE program.
7. Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee
Following the requirements of the WCB Regulation, an employer with more than 20 employees must maintain an effective joint OH&S Committee. They are responsible to participate in inspections and investigations and to review safety decisions and make recommendations to prevent accidents.
8. Emergency Procedures and the Provision for First Aid
Employers are required to anticipate emergencies and pre-plan what workers should do. This also requires performing a First Aid Assessment and ensuring adequate first aid coverage (attendant and supplies).