PL-59: What You Need to Know
Various players in the professional world are in unanimous agreement: Bill 59 (PL-59) is long overdue.
Tabled on October 27 in the Quebec National Assembly, this bill aims to amend the two main laws governing occupational health and safety (OHS) in Quebec: the Act respecting occupational health and safety (AOHS) and the Act respecting industrial accidents and occupational diseases (AIAOD).
However, let’s remember that these once avant-garde laws were written 40 years ago. As might be expected, they haven’t kept pace with the labour market.
What to expect?
Previous versions of the bill planned to require companies to have an occupational health and safety representative, an OHS committee, or even a complete prevention program, based on two criteria: the size of the company, i.e. the number of employees, and its level of risk related to the NAICS code (low, medium or high risk).
However, the most recent version of the bill no longer considers the level of risk. Only the size of the company determines which prevention mechanisms must be implemented. For example, all companies with 20 or more employees will need to :
Have a comprehensive prevention program
Form an OHS committee
Identify a health and safety representative
Psychosocial Risks and Violence
Another major change proposed in the bill is the addition of psychosocial risks to the list of risks the employer must consider. Prevention activities must therefore be put in place to protect workers in the same way as physical, ergonomic, chemical or biological risks.
Psychosocial risks include, for example, harassment or work overload, which are associated with impacts on physical and mental health (distress, anxiety disorders, musculoskeletal disorders).
Lastly, measures must be taken to protect workers from different types of violence that they would be exposed to in their workplace, including domestic, family or sexual violence.
What about remote working?
Currently, the new law is expected to apply to workers during their working hours, regardless of where their work takes place. However, the boundaries between professional and personal life, as well as between the obligations of the employer and employee remain to be clarified.
Charges and Remediation
A regulation on occupational diseases will replace Schedule 1 of the RROHS (Regulation respecting occupational health and safety). Although the content will be similar, a presumption of post-traumatic stress in certain circumstances as well as the recognition of certain cancers as occupational diseases will be added.
The bill also includes a series of changes that could significantly affect cost allocation, such as removing the notion of “unduly burdening an employer” from section 326 of the AIAOD.
Management of work accident records is a real headache for many employers and is not likely to get any easier: a good file management partner could be a wise choice.
The creation of this new law, which includes just under 300 articles, is a colossal task that required hearing and considering the opinions of many stakeholders. Santinel participated in advisory committees as prevention experts.
At this time, the bill is still being amended. We can therefore expect some changes before it is officially adopted. However, the main elements of the bill remain unchanged from one version to another.
It’s best to prepare for it now!