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Occupational Health and Safety in Quebec: Interim Prevention and Participation Regime to Take Effect on April 6, 2022

Occupational Health and Safety in Quebec: Interim Prevention and Participation Regime to Take Effect on April 6, 2022
March 9, 2022

With a view to making workplaces healthier and safer, the Quebec National Assembly has passed An Act to Modernize the Occupational Health and Safety Regime (Act), which introduces a series of amendments to Occupational Health and Safety Legislation in Quebec, including the introduction of an Interim Prevention and Participation Regime (Interim Regime). As of April 6, 2022, all establishments in Quebec will have to comply with the Interim Regime.

The Interim Regime allows for the transition between the current and new regimes with respect to implementing participation and prevention mechanisms and is intended to help employers take charge of health and safety in the workplace.

The Interim Regime provides for the creation and implementation of a prevention program that is specific to each establishment, the purpose of which is to control or eliminate workplace risks. An employer’s obligations under its prevention program would vary based on the priority group to which its activities belong, as well as the number of workers in its establishment. The Regulation respecting prevention programs sets out six priority groups that categorize various sectors of economic activity according to their respective health and safety risk levels in the workplace.

Priority Groups 1, 2 and 3 cover sectors of economic activity that present a higher inherent risk to workers’ health and safety. These include, among others, the chemical, wood and processing industries, as well as government services industries. Priority Groups 4, 5, and 6 include, among others, trade, education, agriculture and financial services.

The following is an overview of the new applicable rules:

  • If an employer’s establishment belongs to Priority Groups 1, 2 or 3, that employer is already required to create and implement a prevention program under the Act respecting occupational health and safety.

  • If an employer’s establishment belongs to Priority Groups 4, 5 or 6 and has fewer than 20 workers, that employer is now required to identify and record in writing the occupational health and safety risks for those workers, with the purpose of ascertaining workplace risks and associating them with the places where they may occur. To this end, Quebec’s occupational health and safety governing body, the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST), has created a tool to help employers identify six types of risks, namely chemical, biological, physical, ergonomic, psychosocial and safety risks. The written document setting out an establishment’s workplace risks must be accessible at all times to that establishment’s workers and its designated health and safety liaison officer.

  • If an employer’s establishment belongs to Priority Groups 4, 5 or 6 and has 20 or more workers, that employer is also required to identify and record in writing the occupational health and safety risks for those workers. It must also carry out an analysis of the identified risks, with the purpose of assessing the likelihood of their occurrence as well as their severity in order to prioritize ensuing interventions. Several tools created by the CNESST are at employers’ disposal to facilitate their workplace risk analyses.

The purpose of worker participation mechanisms is to involve workers in taking charge of health and safety issues. These mechanisms are to be implemented by employers pursuant to the Interim Regime and vary according to an establishment’s priority group and number of workers.

  • If an employer’s establishment belongs to Priority Groups 1 or 2 and has fewer than 20 workers, a health and safety liaison officer must be designated.

  • If an employer’s establishment belongs to Priority Groups 1 or 2 and has 20 or more workers, a health and safety committee must be formed and a health and safety representative is to be designated, unless a safety representative has already been designated pursuant to the Act respecting occupational health and safety, in which case, the Regulation respecting health and safety committees continues to apply and the safety representative continues to carry out their duties.

  • If an employer’s establishment belongs to Priority Groups 3, 4, 5 or 6 and has fewer than 20 workers, a health and safety liaison officer is to be designated among the workers, with the purpose of facilitating the communication of health and safety information between the employer and its workers. A liaison officer may also make written recommendations to the employer with respect to the identification of risks, and file complaints with the CNESST.

  • If an employer’s establishment belongs to Priority Groups 3, 4, 5 or 6 and has 20 or more workers, a health and safety committee is to be formed. Its composition, the frequency of its meetings and all other procedures pertaining thereto are to be determined by agreement between the employer and the establishment’s workers. Should no such agreement be reached, the number of committee members and the frequency of meetings are set out in the Interim Regime based on the number of workers in that establishment. The health and safety committee is to be involved in the prevention mechanisms, and therefore in the analysis of risks, and make recommendations to the employer. In addition, a health and safety representative is to be designated among the establishment’s workers, with duties that include inspecting the workplace, making recommendations to the health and safety committee, and filing complaints with the CNESST.

It should be noted that for establishments of 20 or more workers, the Interim Regime provides employers with a multi-establishment option if certain conditions are met. If an employer has more than one establishment with activities of a similar or related nature, thereby exposing these establishments’ workers to similar risks, the multi-establishment option allows for a single risk identification and analysis process to be applied to the establishments. An employer may also, in such cases, form a single health and safety committee and designate only one health and safety representative for these establishments. However, the health and safety representative and committee members must be able to perform their duties properly, taking into account, among other things, the distance between the grouped establishments.

The CNESST will very likely publish other directives after April 6, 2022, with respect to prevention programs to be implemented pursuant to the Interim Regime and its risk analysis requirements. Stay tuned for future Blakes publications on further measures coming into effect under the Act.

For more information, please contact:

Natalie Bussière           514-982-4080
Mark-Anthony Nakis   514-982-6311 
Sophie Lanteigne         514-982-4269 

or any other member of our Employment & Labour group.