The Saskatchewan Employment Act underwent significant amendments on May 17, 2023, with the purpose of enhancing occupational health and safety in workplaces across the province. These changes, which have now come into force, are expected to create a robust culture of workplace health and safety, leading to a reduction in workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.
The Minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety, Don Morgan, expressed his support for the amendments, emphasizing their crucial role in fostering a safer work environment.
“The amendments passed today will ensure we are building a strong culture of workplace health and safety, which is critical to helping reduce workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities,” stated Minister Morgan.
Most of the amendments are currently in effect, except for the requirement to have a violence policy and conduct incident investigations. This specific provision will be enforced in one year, granting employers sufficient time and opportunity to create and implement appropriate policies. To aid employers in this process, guidelines and sample policies are readily available on the official Saskatchewan government website (saskatchewan.ca).
The key changes introduced in the Saskatchewan Employment (Part III) Amendment Act, 2022 include:
- Expanding the definition of a worker: The amendments now encompass secondary and post-secondary students within the definition of a worker. Consequently, these students will be entitled to the same protections and provisions outlined in Part III of the Act.
- Strengthening employers’ duty and responsibility: The amendments clarify the employers’ obligation to investigate incidents of harassment thoroughly. This clarification ensures that workplace harassment is taken seriously and promptly addressed.
- Implementing violence policies: All workplaces, including those employing students, volunteers, and contract workers, are now required to have a violence policy in place. This policy aims to prevent and address instances of violence in the workplace effectively. Moreover, all incidents of violence will be subject to thorough investigation.
- Enhancing the authority of occupational health officers: Occupational health officers have been granted the power to take photographs and recordings during workplace inspections. This extension of authority allows for more comprehensive assessments of potential hazards and facilitates more effective enforcement of safety regulations.
- Ensuring impartial investigations: The amendments empower officers to exclude individuals from investigation interviews if a conflict of interest is perceived. In such cases, the person being interviewed will be asked to nominate another suitable individual to attend the interview.
- Housekeeping and general amendments: The legislative changes also encompass various housekeeping and general amendments. These revisions are aimed at maintaining the relevance of the legislation and aligning it with other statutory requirements.
With the implementation of these amendments, the Government of Saskatchewan strives to foster safer work environments and prevent workplace accidents. By clarifying responsibilities, expanding protections, and providing guidelines, the amendments are expected to improve workplace health and safety throughout the province. Employers are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the new provisions and take appropriate measures to ensure compliance within their organizations.
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