Industry Voices: A closer look at OHS policy changes by WorkSafeBC

Journal of Commerce    |    by DAVE BASPALY     |    Apr 27, 2016

A number of changes have been made by WorkSafeBC to its policies with respect to OHS (Occupational Health and Safety) penalties. These policies have a potential financial impact on all employers and this column is focused on an overview of the new provisions.

The new policies set out the criteria for imposing OHS penalties.

The policy lists a set of circumstances in which WorkSafeBC must consider an OHS penalty.

Then it describes the factors that are to be considered to determine whether or not an OHS penalty is appropriate under the circumstances.

The policy explains that if an employer has been duly diligent, WorkSafeBC cannot impose an OHS penalty and these factors do not need to be considered.

Due diligence is a familiar concept, but the policy sets out the new criteria for applying due diligence. The criteria for considering a penalty are described in detail and employers can read the full version on the website.

In addition, a new policy provides that when the experience rating of the employer is transferred to another firm, then the OHS history is also transferred.

This is important to understand because the new firm may inherit a record of health and safety violations and be vulnerable for a penalty with the next occurrence of a violation.

Another new policy sets out the amount for the OHS penalty in terms of payroll size, the presence of multiple locations and the calculation formula used to calculate the basic amount of the penalty.

As well, the policy describes the variation that may be applied to increase or decrease the penalty by up to 30 per cent in exceptional circumstances only.

The criteria for imposing repeat penalties are also described.

A repeat penalty may be considered where there are at least two prior similar penalties.

The policy also describes the discretionary penalty, which may be used under special circumstances to increase the penalty amount.

The penalty is intended to reflect the gravity of the circumstances and the need to motivate the employer to compliance.

Lastly, the Workers’ Compensation Act authorizes WorkSafeBC to charge the cost of a claim to the employer under certain circumstances.

The maximum amount that WorkSafeBC may charge to the employer for the cost of a claim is currently about $55,000.

The new policy describes the details of the circumstances. The current statutory maximum for an OHS penalty is over $682,000. This new set of policies is available online.

For the complete wording of the changes, please refer to this web address:

For more information visit our website or contact the COCA office at 604-683-0556.

Dave Baspaly is the president of the Council of Construction Associations (COCA) and a member of the JOC Editorial Advisory Board. Send comments or questions to