Health and Safety Legislation in the Remote Workplace
In the workplace, employee safety is protected by occupational health and safety codes. These codes outline workplace practices that the employer must provide to ensure a safe environment for the employee to exercise his or her craft. This same obligation applies to remote workplaces.
Legislation Differences Across Jurisdictions and Industries
- Each province and territory has its own occupational health and safety regulations and a department to oversee the application of these rules.
- In many cases there are different regulations for specific industries, such as mining, forestry, oil and gas, aviation, maritime, etc.
- The Canada Labour Code regulates safety standards for companies, departments and organizations that fall under federal jurisdiction.
Remote Worksite Requirements
Companies operating in remote and wilderness regions require specific equipment, procedures, medical infrastructure and employee training that all go far beyond those designed for the urban workplace.
Employers must provide for the training of employees, safety officers and first aid attendants and ensure that adequate first aid and medical care is available in the workplace.
The Canada Labour Code and Federal Occupational Health and Safety regulations dictate that employers must provide specific wilderness first aid training in addition to standard first aid if an employee’s workplace is in a wilderness area.
If the workplace is in a wilderness area, [the employer shall ensure that the first aid attendant at the workplace is qualified by having at least] a standard first aid certificate and wilderness first aid training that is specifically designed to meet the first aid needs of persons who work, live or travel in such an area.
Employers should work closely with a competent provider of wilderness first aid training. This ensures that the scope and content of the training is adequate for the specific needs of the employer and takes into consideration the site location, season, type of work, etc.
Medical Access to Remote Sites
The standard of medical care provided by appropriately trained personnel on remote worksites extends far beyond that encountered in urban regions where emergency services are minutes away.
Employers must consider that medical evacuation from worksites in many remote regions is available only by specially equipped aircraft and then only when weather conditions permit aircraft. This creates the potential that medical evacuation may be delayed by many hours or even days leaving the care of the patient to those already on site.
Health Canada guidelines for the air transport of the sick and injured dictate that seriously ill or injured persons may only travel by air under the supervision of qualified medical personnel. If there are no qualified professionals on site, medical personnel must be flown into the camp or facility in order to conduct a medevac, potentially creating further delays.
Responsilibity Under the Criminal Code of Canada
The fatal explosion in the Wastray Coal mine in Pictu NS, on May 9, 1992 and the subsequent inquiry into the tragedy prompted significant changes to health and safety legislation in Canadian law.
In 2004, the Canadian government adopted Bill C-45, which amended the Criminal Code of Canada to broaden the responsibility of employers in providing adequate safety for their employees or anyone in their charge.
Every one who undertakes, or has the authority, to direct how another person does work or performs a task is under a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to that person, or any other person, arising from that work or task.
Bill C-45 added Sections 22.1 and 22.2 to the Criminal Code of Canada imposing potential criminal liability on organizations and its individual representatives for negligence (22.1) and other offences (22.2).
As a result of these laws, employers and individual supervisors within an organization are expected to exercise due diligence in all aspects of work environment planning and staff training.
Due diligence is the level of judgement, care, prudence, determination, and activity that a person would reasonably be expected to do under particular circumstances.
Applied to occupational health and safety, due diligence means that employers must undertake all reasonable precautions, considering the particular circumstances, to prevent injuries or accidents in the workplace and to provide adequate care for workers should an injury or illness occur.
No form of legislation or regulation could possibly define all forms of hazard inherent in remote and wilderness environments.
To exercise due diligence, an employer must implement a plan to identify possible workplace hazards and carry out the appropriate action to reduce the probability of accidents or injuries arising from these hazards.
This duty also applies to situations that are not specifically addressed elsewhere in the occupational health and safety legislation. Why does due diligence have special significance?
- “Due diligence” is essential as a means of protecting the health and safety of workers. It is a moral obligation.
- It is also a legal obligation. It serves as a legal defence for any person charged under occupational health and safety legislation or the criminal code. If charged, a defendant may be found guilty if he or she cannot prove that due diligence was exercised.
Due diligence must be exercised to fully protect against the hazards and risks that may be specific to a remote worksite and to ensure a suitable standard of medical care should an accident occur.
Let Us Advise You
Developing appropriate health and safety programs and emergency response plans for a remote workplace requires a health and safety infrastructure that extends well beyond what is mandated by general regulations.
SIRIUSMEDx has more than 20 years’ experience in providing complete medical support systems for remote sites across Canada and the Arctic. Regardless of the location or size of your operation we can provide you with a medical support system that meets your specific needs and exceeds all relevant regulation and standards. Contact us to discuss your specific project requirements.
For additional information on health and safety in the remote workplace refer to the links provided or call SiriusMedx to speak with a risk management specialist.
Health and Safety Regulations Across Canada
- Federal Health and Safety Regulation
- Criminal Code of Canada
- Act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal liability of organizations)
- Bill C-45
Provincial and Territorial Health and Safety Regulation
- Northwest Territories and Nunavut Safety Act
- Northwest Territories and Nunavut Workers’ Compensation Act
- Northwest Territories and Nunavut Mining Regulations
- British Columbia
- Quebec Commission des normes, de l’équité,
de la santé et de la sécurité du travail
- Quebec Mining Act
- New Brunswick Occupational Health and Safety Act
- Work Safe New Brunswick
- Prince Edward Island Workers Compensation Board
- Prince Edward Island Occupational Health and Safety Act
- Nova Scotia
- Newfoundland and Labrador Occupational Health and Safety Act
- Newfoundland and Labrador Mines and Energy