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, or
  • a person responsible for overseeing workers' health and safety within an organization

Employer obligations

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 work site health and safety committee or health and safety representative, as applicable, to share health and safety information and resolve issues
  • resolving health and safety concerns in a timely manner
  • providing a prime contractor, if one is required at the work site, names of all the supervisors
  • cooperating with any person exercising a duty under the OHS legislation
  • complying with the OHS legislation

Resource: Employer’s guide to occupational health and safety

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
  • a self-employed person

Persons not considered as 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

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
  • refraining from causing or participating in harassment and violence
  • reporting health and safety concerns and conditions to their employer or supervisor
  • cooperating with any person exercising a duty under the OHS legislation
  • complying with the OHS legislation

Resources:

Supervisors

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

Supervisor obligations

Supervisors are responsible for:

  • ensuring they are competent to supervise their workers
  • 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
  • complying with the OHS legislation

Resource: Supervisor roles and responsibilities: an occupational health and safety handbook (coming in spring 2019)

Prime contractors

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

Prime contractors must:

  • be in place when there are two or more employers or self-employers persons involved in work at work sites 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.

Prime contractor obligations

Prime contractors are responsible for:

  • creating a system or process that ensures compliance with the OHS legislation
  • coordinating, organizing and overseeing the performance of all work at the work site to prevent, eliminate or control workplace hazards
  • maintaining the prime contractor's own work activities to ensure no one is exposed to uncontrolled hazards at the work site
  • working with the joint work site health and safety committee or health and safety representative to resolve health and safety issues
  • coordinating the health and safety programs of multiple employers or self-employed persons at the work site
  • cooperating with any person exercising a duty under the OHS legislation
  • complying with the OHS legislation

Resource: The role and duties of the prime contractor

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:

  • the products they supply are safe to use
    • equipment must be properly maintained, repaired and adjusted with all covers and guards in place
  • any supplied harmful substance 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
  • compliance with appropriate standards (e.g. Canadian Standards Associations and the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM))
  • employers, where the equipment was supplied, are aware if equipment or harmful substances or explosives do not comply with a standard

Suppliers must also comply with the OHS legislation and cooperate with any person exercising a duty under the OHS legislation.

Resource: For details about supplier’s responsibilities see part 1, section 6 of the OHS Act

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 comply with the OHS legislation.

Service providers are responsible for:

  • making sure their services are completed by competent workers
  • ensuring that no person at or near a work site is endangered by their activities
  • completing a hazard assessment of the work and ensuring steps are taken to eliminate or control the hazards
  • making sure workers use required personal protection equipment while they provide the service

Resource: For details about service provider’s responsibilities see part 1, section 7 of the OHS Act

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 (e.g. 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 comply with the OHS legislation and also cooperate with any person exercising a duty under the OHS legislation.

Resource: For details about owner’s responsibilities see part 1, section 8 of the OHS Act

Contractors

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

Contractor obligations

The contractor is responsible for:

  • ensuring that processes and procedures performed by workers under the control of the contractor do not create a risk to the health and safety of any person
  • making sure work sites under their control do not harm the health and safety of anyone at the work sites

If the work site has a prime contractor, the contractor must provide the prime contractor with the names of every employer or self-employed person whose work activities the contractor is responsible for.

The contractor must comply with the OHS legislation and also cooperate with any person exercising a duty under the OHS legislation.

Resource: For details about contractor’s responsibilities, see part 1, section 9 of the OHS Act

Self-employed persons

A self-employed person is a person who is engaged in an occupation but does not work for an employer.

This may include a tradesperson such as a plumber, carpenter or electrician who owns their business, performs the work, and has no employees.

Self-employed person obligations

Self-employed persons must:

  • ensure their work does not create a health and safety hazard to themselves or others
  • report any unsafe conditions at a work site to all affected employers or self-employed persons
  • inform the prime contractor, if there is one, that they are working on the project or at the work site

Resource: For details about self-employed person’s responsibilities, see part 1, section 11 of the OHS Act

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
  • making sure the employer is capable of ensuring the health and safety of the worker
  • working with the employer to ensure they have assessed the hazards related to the work and taken steps to eliminate or control the hazards

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

Resource: For details about temporary staffing agency’s responsibilities, see part 1, section 12 of the OHS Act

Multiple obligations

A person on a work site can have multiple obligations when they have two 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

Resource: For details about multiple obligations, see part 1, section 13 of the OHS Act.

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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