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WorkSafeBC Regulations Need Clarity

A BC Supreme Court judge recently decided WorkSafeBC regulations are too vague.

The judge said, “If the court is to punish anyone for not carrying out its orders, the order must in unambiguous terms direct what is to be done.”

“Even if every word of the act or the regulation (were) contained in the order, it would still be impossible in my view for the respondents to know when they went to work each day whether their work put them … in contempt of this court.”

The specific ruling involved asbestos removal but the same may be said for many WorkSafeBC regulations that are vague, interpretive and expensive.

An example is the definition of an independent trade vs employee.

It is legal under WorkSafeBC regulations to hire independent trades using their own materials, working their own hours, and carrying private insurance.

However, builders have been back-charged thousands of dollars in insurance premiums when

WorkSafeBC reassessed independent trades as employees.

The issues are:

  1. Regulations must not be so interpretive that builders acting in good faith are still charged thousands of dollars in reassessments.
  2. Regulations must not act as a disincentive for entrepreneurial trades setting up their own businesses.
  3. An independent third party should be part of the reassessments.

In 2010, we wrote to the ministry responsible for WorkSafeBC and they replied more clarity would be a priority.

So far, little has changed but perhaps this recent ruling will offer incentive.

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This column appears Wednesdays in the Times Colonist.

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