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Changes to the New Brunswick Occupational Health and Safety Act: What You Need to Know Before April 1, 2019

As an employer chances are the state of your internal policies is not the most pressing thing on your mind. But before April 1, 2019 you’ll need to turn your attention to whether you are compliant with the new changes to the New Brunswick Occupational Health and Safety Act. All employers will now be required to develop and put into place a code of practice to prevent harassment in the workplace. Most employers will also be required to have a code of practice to prevent violence in the workplace.

The Harassment Policy

  • The new regulations require the harassment policy to include:
  • A statement that every employee is entitled to a workplace free of harassment
  • A clear identification of the person responsible for putting the harassment policy in place
  • A statement that employees must immediately report an incident of harassment to their employer.
  • What the investigation process/ procedure looks like

Other elements are outlined in the regulations and focus on how the employee should be informed of follow up to their complaint as well as the need for identifying the training needs for all employees.

Examples of harassment in the workplace can include the display of offensive materials, verbal insults or degrading remarks, abuse of authority unwelcome jokes about disability, race, sex, or sexual orientation. Sexual harassment examples can include unwanted contact, sexually suggestive pictures or remarks, leering, or implied or overt threats in exchange for sexual favours.

What You Need to Know as an Employer

Failing to adhere to the new requirements under the Occupational Health and Safety Actand the General Regulations may result in an order for compliance being issued. It’s therefore important to have the right policy in place prior to the April 1, 2019 deadline.

The legislative changes to the Act means that all employers in New Brunswick must make and put in place a code of practice to prevent workplace harassment. All employers must also perform a ‘risk assessment’ on the likelihood of violence in their workplace. A risk assessment is a careful examination of what, in your workplace, could cause harm to people, so that you can see whether you have taken enough precautions to prevent harm. Ideally it will look at identifying the potential hazards, who might be harmed and how, and evaluate the risks and decide on how to control them. Some employers will also be required to put a code of practice in place to prevent workplace violence based on the risk assessment or as stated in the regulations based on type of work you are doing.

The code of practices are applicable to all of the workplace. This can include the physical work site, its washrooms, cafeteria, and training sessions or work related social gatherings. What goes in the code of practice can vary based on what type of business is being operated as well as how many employees are employed within the province. If your business has more than 20 employees you must have a code of practice for both harassment and violence prevention. If you have less than 20 employees you may still be required to have a written code of practice for violence and harassment if your work involves:

  • Teaching
  • Early learning and childcare services
  • Retail sales
  • Transporting goods or persons for hire in a vehicle
  • Operate a casino or other gaming premises under theGaming Control Act
  • A place where you have a liquor license and is accessible to the public
  • A cannabis retail outlet.

Workplace violence policies are also required if the work is carried on at the place of employment for anyone who is an employee of the public service, an employee of an emergency service provider, a health professional, a pharmacist, a veterinarian, a social worker, outreach worker, crisis intervener, an employee of an agency as defined in the Private Investigators and Security Services Act, a person registered or licensed under an Act of the Province to provide financial services, or if you supply goods or services to a public body under the Procurement Act.

If the business does not cleanly fit into either category the need for a code of practice might still exist.

As an employer you should also note that when using your workplace harassment policy that you shall not disclose to anyone the identity of a person involved in an incident of harassment or the circumstances relating to it unless it’s necessary in order to investigate the incident and take corrective action or as required by law

The Workplace Violence Policy

The new regulations provide factors to be considered when conducting the assessment. They include things like the location and circumstances in which the work activities take place, the sort of violent situations that could arise out of the work activities. The assessment should also focus on which employees are at the greatest risk of being a victim of work place violence and how this could affect both them and the business in the long and short term.

  • If the assessment reveals a risk of violence then the employer must establish a written code of practice aimed at lessening the risk. The policy must include:
  • An inventory of locations and circumstances in which the policy applies, and where violence could be expected to occur
  • The types of violence that could be expected to occur
  • Information on which employees or category of employee are at risk OR the types of activities in the workplace that put employees at risk of experiencing violence
  • Who is responsible for putting the policy into action
  • A statement that employees must immediately report any incident of violence to the employer; and
  • What actions and measures the employer will take to mitigate the risks of violence in the workplace.
  • The employer must review the policy yearly with the joint health and safety committee, or if there is not an established committee then directly with employees. Employers are also required to provide training to all employees regarding the violence in the workplace policy. Training methods must be kept and made available to a WorkSafeNB officer upon request.

What We Can Do to Help

We’re experts in Human Resources and policy development. Making sure your new policy meets both your needs and the requirements of the new regulations would be our pleasure. Contact us for assistance!