New WorkSafeBC rules on safety headgear take effect September 1

WORKSAFEBC on Wednesday reminded employers that new health and safety requirements for safety headgear take effect on September 1, 2021.

WorkSafeBC’s Board of Directors approved the change to Part 8 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (OHSR) pertaining to safety headgear in April of this year. The change to the OHSR followed an extensive public and stakeholder consultation process by WorkSafeBC.

The revised regulation means that before a worker starts an assignment in a work area where there is a risk of head injury, the employer must take measures to eliminate or minimize the risk of head injury before requiring the worker to wear safety headgear. Employers are encouraged to involve workers in the review of any work place hazards and any controls measures that may be implemented to keep workers safe.

The intent of the change is to improve occupational health and safety in the workplace by requiring employers to follow the hierarchy of controls, which is a step-by-step approach to eliminating or reducing risks.

The hierarchy of controls ranks risk controls from the highest level of protection to the lowest. In the hierarchy, workers are best protected from head injury when the risks from falling, flying or thrown objects are eliminated, or minimized to the lowest level practicable. Personal protective equipment, such as safety headgear, provides the lowest level of protection in the hierarchy.

Safety headgear is required where the risk of head injury cannot be eliminated or minimized to the lowest level practicable. Eliminating the dangers of head injury removes the need for head protection.

Prior to this change, the Sikh community had raised concerns that employers were applying a blanket safety headgear requirement, resulting in turban-wearing Sikh workers not being able to fully participate in the workforce.

In 2019, the Ministry of Labour requested that WorkSafeBC consider amending the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation to continue to protect the health and safety of turban-wearing Sikhs, while providing accommodation where there is no risk of head injury.

To support employers with the new regulation, WorkSafeBC has developed an OHS Guideline that provides employers with information on the hierarchy of control measures and specific examples of engineering and administrative controls to minimize the risk of head injury. The guideline will undergo a 60-day comment period for all stakeholders to provide feedback.

WorkSafeBC’s Prevention Services team will be engaging employers and industry to inform and educate them on the revised regulation and OHS Guideline.

Workers or employers with questions can contact WorkSafeBC’s prevention information line toll-free at 1-888-621-7233.