Table of contents

Overview

Having a healthy and safe work environment is a goal everyone shares and each person on a work site is responsible for working towards this.

The internal responsibility system is a foundational principle of OHS legislation that allows this to happen. Its core premise is that every work site party is accountable for workplace health and safety.

Alberta’s OHS Act defines the roles and responsibilities of each work site parties. Obligations of work site parties are detailed in part 1 of the OHS Act.

Employers

An employer is:

  • a person who employs or engages one or more workers, including workers from a temporary staffing agency
  • a person designated to represent an employer
  • a person responsible for overseeing workers' health and safety within an organization
  • a self-employed person

Employer obligations

Read the Guide to OHS: Employers

Employers are responsible for:

  • ensuring the health, safety and welfare of workers and the public at or in the vicinity of the work site
  • making their workers aware of their rights and responsibilities under the OHS legislation and if there are any workplace health and safety issues
  • protecting their workers from harassment or violence at the work site and ensuring that workers do not participate in harassment or violence
  • ensuring their workers are supervised by supervisors who are competent and familiar with relevant OHS legislation that applies to the work performed
  • ensuring their workers are properly trained
  • working with the joint health and safety committee or health and safety representative, as applicable, to ensure the committee or representative is meeting their obligations
  • that health and safety issues raised by workers, supervisors, and the joint health and safety committee or the health and safety representative, if there is one, are resolved in a timely manner
  • for work that may endanger a worker, ensuring that work is done by a competent worker or under the direct supervision of a competent worker
  • providing information on work site hazards, controls, and work practices and procedures to workers, the joint health and safety committee or representative, if there is one, and prime contractors, if there is one
  • having current copies of the OHS legislation available to workers and the joint health and safety committee or health and safety representative, if there is one
  • cooperating with any person exercising a duty under the OHS legislation

Workers

A worker is any person engaged in an occupation. This can include:

  • a volunteer who performs or supplies services for an organization or employer

Persons not considered workers include:

  • students involved in learning activities in an educational setting for which no monetary compensation is paid to the student
  • farm and ranch operations owner, family member of the owner or non-waged individual contributing to defined farming operations (with some exceptions)

Worker obligations

Read the Guide to OHS: Workers

Workers are responsible for:

  • protecting their own and others’ health and safety at or in the vicinity of the work site
  • cooperating with their employer or supervisor by following health and safety rules for the job
  • using all hazard controls and wearing personal protection equipment designated or provided by the employer or required by the OHS legislation
  • refraining from causing or participating in harassment and violence
  • reporting health and safety concerns and conditions to their employer or supervisor
  • participating in any training provided by the employer
  • cooperating with any person exercising a duty under the OHS legislation

Supervisors

A supervisor is a person who is in charge of a work site or has authority over one or more workers.

Supervisor obligations

Read the Guide to OHS: Supervisors

Supervisors are responsible for:

  • protecting the health and safety of workers they supervise
  • making sure supervised workers work in a healthy and safe manner and follow OHS legislation, and are not subject to or participate in harassment and violence
  • advising their workers of all known or reasonably foreseeable work hazards
  • reporting health and safety concerns and conditions to their employer
  • cooperating with any person exercising a duty under the OHS legislation

Prime contractors

A prime contractor is a person with the role of coordinating, organizing and overseeing the health and safety activities of multiple employers on a single work site.

Prime contractors must:

  • be in place at
    • oil and gas and construction work sites when there are 2 or more employers involved in work at the work site, or
    • at any other work site designated by an OHS director
  • be designated by the person in control of the work site
    • this designation must be in writing and the name of the prime contractor must be posted in a visible place at the work site

If the person in control of the work site fails to designate a prime contractor, then that person is deemed to be prime contractor. In such a situation, the person in control can also be held accountable for their failure to designate a prime contractor.

Other industries with multi-employer work sites can choose to designate a prime contractor, but it is not a requirement. If a prime contractor is designated they have to fulfil all prime contractor obligations.

Prime contractor obligations

Read about prime contractor role and duties

Prime contractors are responsible for:

  • posting the name of the prime contractor in a conspicuous place at the work site
  • creating a system or process that ensures compliance with the OHS legislation and ensures cooperation between the employer and workers with respect to health and safety
  • designating a person in writing to be responsible for ensuring cooperation between the employer and workers and implementing a system that addresses the duties of a joint health and safety committee
    • this replaces the requirement to have a site-specific health and safety committee or representative at a work site with a prime contractor
  • maintaining the prime contractor's own work activities to ensure no one is exposed to uncontrolled hazards at the work site
  • complying with any requirement in the OHS legislation that imposes a duty on an employer with respect to equipment, work site infrastructure, or an excavation as if that requirement had been directly imposed on the prime contractor
  • ensuring the owner and any employer, supplier or service provider on the work site is informed of any existing or potential work site hazards
  • cooperating with any person exercising a duty under the OHS legislation

Suppliers

A supplier sells, rents, leases, erects, installs or provides equipment.

They can also sell or provide harmful substances or explosives to be used by a worker for any occupation or project or at any work site.

Supplier obligations

Suppliers are responsible for ensuring:

  • any supplied equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE) is safe to use
  • any supplied harmful substance or explosive is safe to use when used in accordance with the manufacture's specifications
  • proper maintenance of equipment if the supplier has a maintenance agreement in place
  • employers are made aware if equipment, PPE, harmful substances or explosives do not comply with a standard
  • any supplied equipment, PPE, harmful substance or explosive complies with the OHS legislation
  • written copy of manufacturer’s specifications and instructions for safe use, if applicable, are provided with any supplied equipment, PPE, harmful substance or explosive
  • cooperate with any person exercising a duty under the OHS legislation

Service providers

A service provider provides services such as training, consulting, testing and program development or other services in respect of any occupation, project or work site.

Service provider obligations

Service providers must ensure that the services offered to a person to meet an OHS legislated obligation will enable that person to comply with the OHS legislation.

Service providers are responsible for:

  • ensuring that their services comply with the OHS legislation
  • when services are provided to meet an obligation in OHS legislation, making sure their services are completed by workers competent to perform that service
  • ensuring that no person at or near a work site is endangered by their activities
  • cooperate with any person exercising a duty under the OHS legislation

Owners

An owner is a person who is registered under the Land Titles Act as the owner of the land where work is being carried out or may be carried out.

An owner may enter into an agreement making another person responsible for meeting the owner’s obligations under the OHS legislation.

A person who occupies land or premises used as a private residence is not an owner, unless a business, trade or profession is carried on in the premises.

Owner obligations

Owners are responsible for the land, infrastructure (for example power, water, drainage, etc.), and buildings or premises on the land that is under their control. Owners must make sure that these are provided and maintained so they do not endanger the health and safety of workers or any other persons.

This includes:

  • repairing or replacing missing or broken stairs
  • enclosing or restricting access to areas where there is a fall hazard
  • cleaning and disinfecting areas of a building affected by mold resulting from a leaking water service

Owners must ensure that any hazard identified by the owner is communicated to all parties at the work site.

Owners must cooperate with any person exercising a duty under the OHS legislation.

Contracting employers

A contracting employer is a person, partnership or group of persons who, through a contract, an agreement or ownership, directs the activities of one or more employers involved in work at a work site.

Contracting employer obligations

The contracting employer is responsible for:

  • making sure that the employers who are under the direction of the contracting employer comply with the OHS legislation
  • informing the owner and any employer, prime contractor, supplier or service provider at the work site of any hazards at the work site

The contracting employer must cooperate with any person exercising a duty under the OHS legislation.

Temporary staffing agencies

A temporary staffing agency is a person who retains workers and deploys or facilitates the placement of those workers with other employers.

Temporary staffing agency obligations

Temporary staffing agencies are responsible for:

  • ensuring workers, who are assigned to another employer, are suitable to perform the tasks required by that employer
  • providing workers with the necessary protective equipment or ensuring they will be provided it by the other employer before commencing work
  • making sure the employer is capable of ensuring the health and safety of the worker

The staffing agencies must cooperate with any person exercising a duty under the OHS legislation.

Multiple obligations

A person on a work site can have multiple obligations when they have 2 or more work site functions simultaneously.

The person must meet the obligations related to all of their work functions.

Where there is an overlap of responsibility among multiple work site parties, the OHS Act allows one party to comply with the obligation and relieve the other parties from fulfilling the same obligation as long as:

  • simultaneous compliance is an unnecessary duplication of effort and expense
  • compliance by only one person will not put the health and safety of any person at risk at the work site

Contact

Connect with OHS:

Phone: 780-415-8690 (Edmonton)
Toll free: 1-866-415-8690 
TTY: 780-427-9999 (Edmonton)
TTY: 1-800-232-7215

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