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New regulations in effect April 15

The Report: May / June 1998 vol.18 num.8

by RACHEL NOTLEY

April 15, 1998 was the culmination of over five years of work by labouractivists committed to improving health and safety for BC workers. Thats because thefirst major revision of BCs health and safety regulation since 1970 came into effecton that day and workers can now rely on the enhanced health and safety protection providedthrough the new regulations.

New protections forworkers
The amendments are far-reaching and affect workers in a broad cross-section of industriesacross the province. HSA members, along with other healthcare workers, will enjoy new andenhanced protections in several areas.

Limits now exist on the degree to which the employer can requireworkers to work alone. Although it is not prohibited, requirements are now in place forregular communication with isolated workers. Basic ergonomic, lighting, and indoor airquality standards must be met by the employer.

Tobacco smoke at the workplace is prohibited unless it is outside or ina room that functions on a different ventilation system than the rest of the building.Although currently exempted, long term care facilities, restaurants, bars and games roomswill be covered by the regulation as of January 1, 2000.

Toxic chemical hazards
In the area of toxic chemical hazards, new substances have been added to the prohibitedlist and the allowable levels of a number of substances have been reduced.

The employer is now obligated to monitor the contamination levels ofcertain high risk workplaces (many HSA workplaces would be covered by this section of theregulation) on a regular basis and to develop an exposure control plan. New standards havebeen put in place with respect to ventilation. The specific handling of cytotoxic drugs isalso much more strictly regulated. Finally, although labour activists were unsuccessful inachieving more authoritative language, the new regulation at least requires the employerto develop a policy "which may include protective re-assignment" to protectpregnant and sensitized workers.

Your role in OH&S
The above noted changes, combined with last years new regulation of bloodbornepathogens and the four year old violence regulation (which, unfortunately, remainsuncomplied with in the majority of workplaces notwithstanding the fact that it has been inplace for several years) have increased the employers health and safety obligationsin the workplace. It is up to you, in concert with your Health and Safety Steward andcommittee, to monitor your workplace and ensure these standards are met.

HSA will be mailing out copies of the new regulations to each ChiefSteward and each Safety Steward. For more information on the new regulation or on anyother health and safety issue, contact the wcb/Health and Safety Labour Relations Officerat HSA.

Rachel Notley is HSAs WCB / Occupational Health and SafetyOfficer.

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