Summary of Bill C-4 Changes to Health and Safety Provisions

The Bill changes the definition of “danger” to “imminent or serious threat to the life or health of a person”.

  • Bill C-4 removes the concept of danger as a potential occurrence.  It removes the language of a “potential hazard”.  (Subsection 122(1))
  • Bill C-4 removes the idea that workers deserve protection from activities or conditions that could cause them danger in the future.
  • When you marry this up with the removal of the word “illness”, workers will likely not be able to claim protection from potential chronic or slow developing illnesses based on exposure to carcinogens (such as asbestos). 
  • The new definition of danger also removes the concept of complaining about unsafe work based on its impact on a worker’s reproductive system.  The existing definition of danger permits complaints based on the impact to someone’s reproductive system.  The new definition eliminates that as a basis for complaint.

All authority and powers of Health and Safety Officers are now being removed and placed with the Minister,  thus politicizing the process of monitoring and enforcing health and safety protections.

  • The Bill  removes all reference to an inspectorate of autonomous neutral trained professional health and safety officers, a change that would allow the government to replace them with political appointees who the Minister deems to be qualified.   (Section 190)
  • The Minister or her appointee can refuse to look into a matter if the Minister deems the worker’s health and safety concern to be trivial, frivolous, vexatious or in bad faith.  (Section 182)  Our concern is that this will make an employee who fears for his or her health or safety in the workplace vulnerable to discipline.

Bill C-4 states that the Minister of Labour may administer or enforce electronically the Canada Labour Code. This will allow the Minister to do virtual investigation (Subsection 212).

Up until now, the cornerstone of ensuring healthy and safe workplaces has been an internal responsibility system based on worker and employer engagement, consultation and participation.  Where that system was ineffective to resolve disputes about the impact of the job on a worker’s health, we had laws that regulated hazards in the workplace on the basis of a system of monitoring and enforcement by trained and neutral health and safety officers, and if necessary recourse to a tribunal staffed by independent decision makers.  Bill C-4 will change all that and roll the dice with workers’ safety.

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October 29, 2013