Bill 59, which aims to modernize Quebec’s occupational health and safety system, risks missing its target and losing the opportunity to catch up with other Canadian provinces.
This is in a way the opinion of Morneau Shepell, a human resources management consultant, who this morning released a critical analysis of the Minister of Labor’s bill. This analysis, whose Newspaper obtained a copy, is based on a study of Quebec practices in this area, by comparing them with those of four other jurisdictions (Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and Manitoba).
It also emerges that the plan administered in Quebec by the Commission des normes, de l’énergie, de la santé et de la sécurité au travail (CNESST) stands out in the country by its lack of competitiveness, particularly with regard to return to work delays and costs to employers.
In this regard, Quebec would be ranked dead last compared to the main worker’s compensation board plans in Canada. In addition, repair costs (including indemnities and medical expenses) are currently 43% higher in Quebec than in Ontario; and 33% higher than in Alberta.
All in all, the cumulative inefficiencies of the Quebec system, when compared to that of the other provinces, would entail an additional charge, varying between $ 640 million and $ 1 billion per year, for all businesses. An anomaly to correct, according to the authors.
This analysis report of some 120 pages was prepared by Sylvain Lebel, Senior Vice-President Occupational Health and Safety at Morneau Shepell, in close collaboration with the lawyer emeritus, Bernard Cliche, former head of legal proceedings at the CSST (now CNESST) and author of several books on the subject.
“I am happy that we review our diet. After more than 35 years, we can only applaud the initiative, says its co-author Sylvain Lebel. But could we at least take advantage of it to make it more efficient, rather than adding even more red tape to the one we already know? ”
Bill 59 was introduced by the Minister of Labor, Jean Boulet, in October. In its initial form, the 118-page, 293-article draft provides for amendments to seven laws. The two main ones are the Act respecting occupational health and safety and the Act respecting industrial accidents and occupational diseases.
From wall to wall
The project proposes, among other things, to extend the application of prevention and worker participation mechanisms to all sectors of activity depending on the size of establishments and the level of risk of the activities carried out there.
This expansion, however, comes with a range of new obligations for employers. For companies with less than 20 employees, the project foresees, for example, the creation of a health and safety committee and the presence of a prevention representative. Elsewhere, the authors write, a health and safety committee is only required for companies with more than 20 employees.
The authors also criticize “going from wall to wall”, lacking flexibility and thus adding unduly to the burden on businesses. “We must avoid the trap of often heavy and complex structures, advises Me Cliche, partner at Morency Avocats. We must aim for results and the adaptation of resources to reality ”
More power at the CNESST
The bill also confers many new powers on the CNESST in matters of accommodation for a victim of an employment injury. It also provides for penalties when an employer does not comply with the requirements of the law, without providing for equivalents for refractory victims.
The authors recall that Quebec has the “most generous plan in the country” in terms of the duration and amount of compensation (90% of net salary for 12 months) and that it wants to continue to do the same. , the plan was likely to harm the province’s economy as a whole in the longer term.
The two authors recommend that Quebec draw inspiration from Ontario, which has managed to redress its situation since 2015 thanks to the adoption of a principle known as “Better at work”. According to this approach, return to work improves recovery and is part of the recovery process for injured workers.
A parliamentary committee to discuss the project is scheduled for next week, January 19-21. A little less than thirty groups will be heard there.
Already, the president of the FTQ, Daniel Boyer, has qualified the project of decline for workers in Quebec, deploring for example that the health professions were considered in this bill as a low risk sector in terms of health and safety. .
The FTQ will campaign in the coming weeks with members of Parliament (…) to make them understand that the people they represent, the workers, need to be protected and not abandoned, ”said Daniel Boyer. , Tuesday.
The Quebec Employers Council also plans to submit a brief. Without revealing the position he intends to defend, its president Karl Blackburn, suggested that elements undoubtedly required adjustments. In order, he specifies, that the current system is “less expensive, more efficient and ensures a healthy workforce”.
Health and safety at work in a few figures
- 251 workers suffer an industrial accident every day in Quebec.
- In 2018, Quebec recorded a total of 103,406 occupational injuries.
- That same year, 226 Quebecers died from it.