Saskatchewan Repeals its OHS Act and brings into force a new Employment Act

by Bennett Jones LLP

If you are doing business in Saskatchewan, you should consider whether this legal change applies to your operations. If it does, you should also stay alert to the next expected changes. This is particularly the case if you own worksites, as you may need to amend your contracts and your OHS management plans.

New Legislative Framework for Occupational Health and Safety Law

On April 29, 2014, Saskatchewan repealed its Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1993 and replaced it with the new Saskatchewan Employment Act (SEA).[1]  The SEA consolidates legislation governing occupational health and safety, radiation health and safety, employment standards, and labour relations into one comprehensive Act.

Although the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1993 has been repealed, Saskatchewan’s Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, 1996 are still in force and will continue under the SEA.[2]  The SEA and new regulations can be obtained from the Government of Saskatchewan’s Publications Center.

Increased Fines

Major changes to be aware of:

  • The fines for most OHS offences have doubled
  • There is a new provision regarding fines for corporations:
    • If a corporation is convicted of an offence that caused the death or serious injury of a worker, the convicting judge may order the corporation to pay a fine not exceeding $1,500,000.[3]

Prime Contractors

Is there a prime contractor regime in Saskatchewan, or isn’t there? This is an issue that has been causing concern since last fall, when changes were made to Saskatchewan’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1993 that referred to “prime contractors”, but were not proclaimed into force.

Currently, under section 3-13 of the SEA, prime contractors are required at every worksite where there are multiple employers or self-employed persons, and the worksite meets “the prescribed circumstances.”  Section 3-13 of the SEA states that the prime contractor for this type of worksite “is to be determined in the prescribed manner” and the prime contractor “shall carry out the prescribed activities”.

Section 3-13 came into force on April 29, 2014.  However, at the time of writing, regulations setting out the “prescribed circumstances” and other details about where and when prime contractors will be required are not yet in force.[4]  These regulations are currently proposed as The Occupational Health and Safety (Prime Contractor) Regulations, published on May 2, 2014, but not expected to come into force until January 1, 2015.[5]

If the Regulations come into force in their current form, the following worksites will require a prime contractor as of January 1, 2015:

  • Worksites in the construction, forestry and oil and gas industry, where
    • “10 or more self-employed persons or workers under the direction of two or more employers are engaged at the worksite”

Readers are encouraged to examine if their activities fall into the construction, forestry and oil and gas industries, as those terms are defined in the Regulations.

If there is no written agreement assigning the role of prime contractor, the default prime contractor will be the owner.  Some of the main duties of the prime contractor will be as follows:

  • Ensure that all activities at the worksite that may affect health and safety of workers or self-employed persons are coordinated
  • Ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that all employers and self-employed persons have adequate and appropriate policies, procedures, safe work practices, equipment, competent workers and information to ensure compliance with Part III of the SEA and the regulations
  • Prepare a written plan that addresses how these requirements will be met
  • Identify a competent person to oversee and direct the activities of employers, workers and self-employed persons at the worksite
  • Identify and inform employers, workers, and self-employed persons about the hazards at the worksite
  • Ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that employers or self-employed persons at the worksite eliminate or control hazards identified by the prime contractor.

Worksite owners must take note that these Regulations spell out owner obligations that must be fulfilled when they assign the prime contractor role to another party. For example, the owner must provide the prime contractor with the policies, procedures and safe work procedures that the employers and self-employed persons have, and must do so in writing, as soon as possible after the prime contractor has been designated. In this regard, Saskatchewan’s law will differ significantly from other comparable provincial laws, such as Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Act.

For now, companies in these industries are encouraged to review how many of their worksites may require a prime contractor as of January 1, 2015. Owners of these worksites may wish to start considering:

  • Whether they wish to keep or delegate the prime contractor role
  • How these legal changes impact existing OHS management plans
  • Whether amendments will be required to existing or future contracts.

Stay posted for more information from Bennett Jones LLP on developments regarding prime contractors in Saskatchewan.

[1] Saskatchewan Employment Act, c.S-15.1 at s. 10-9.

[2] c. O-1.1, Reg. 1.

[3] Saskatchewan Employment Act, c. S. 15.1 at s. 3-79(9).

[4] “prescribed” is defined in section 1-2 of the SEA, above, as meaning “prescribed in the regulations made by the Lieutenant Governor in Council”.

[5] See the Saskatchewan Gazette, May 2, 2014 at page 509: Occupational Health and Safety (Prime Contractor) Regulations at s. 6(1). If these Regulations are filed with the Registrar of Regulations after January 1, 2015, they come into force on the date they are so filed.



DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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