OHS Canada Magazine

Labour ministers from across Canada tackle workplace safety at B.C. meeting

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April 8, 2024
By OHS Canada


Harry Bains, Minister of Labour for British Columbia.

Federal, provincial and territorial labour ministers from across Canada met on Friday in Richmond, B.C. to address ongoing and emergent workplace safety issues.

The gathering, co-hosted by Seamus O’Regan Jr., federal Minister of Labour and Seniors, and Harry Bains, Minister of Labour for British Columbia, marked a collaborative effort to harmonize safety standards and labour regulations nationally.

“Governments get more done when we work together,” said O’Regan Jr. “That’s what businesses and workers expect, and that’s what happened here today.”

Focus on PPE for women

Amid the discussions, a critical focus was the potential ratification of the ILO C155, a cornerstone of the Occupational Safety and Health Convention of 1981.

In June 2022, the International Labour Conference declared a safe and healthy working environment as a fifth fundamental principle and right at work, along with the four other existing fundamental principles. Two occupational health and safety conventions were subsequently declared as new fundamental or core ILO Conventions: C187, the Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 2006; and C155, the Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981Canada ratified C187 in 2011, but has not yet ratified C155.


One of the pivotal issues raised involved the adequacy of personal protective equipment (PPE), particularly for women in trades, where ill-fitting gear not only compromises safety but also impedes the inclusion of women in essential sectors.

Ministers resolved to intensify efforts with PPE manufacturers and stakeholders to address these disparities, emphasizing the need for gear that accommodates all workers effectively.

Labour standards in the gig economy

Furthermore, the ministers tackled the complexities of labour standards in gig work and other non-standard employment scenarios — a sector that continues to expand and evolve, presenting new challenges to traditional workplace protections. They also deliberated on enhancing mechanisms for conflict resolution during labour disputes, including establishing appropriate essential service levels and handling replacement workers.

Bains highlighted the foundational role of labour laws and standards in securing fair working conditions.

“Working people across Canada are entitled to fair working conditions,” he said. “We rely on our labour laws, employment standards and the workers’ compensation systems to ensure appropriate rules are in place. The labour ministers’ meeting was a chance to compare best practices and discuss ways to keep up with the needs of our changing workplaces.”

The conference concluded with a unified pledge to continue sharing information and best practices to implement policies that support fair, safe, healthy, and inclusive workplaces across all jurisdictions in Canada.

As the ministers look forward to further collaborations, the impact of their concerted efforts could significantly shape the landscape of Canadian labor laws and workplace safety standards, setting a precedent for future international labor compliance and inclusivity initiatives.

The federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for labour meet regularly to discuss issues of mutual concern that they can collaboratively address. Throughout the year, their work is supported by deputy ministers through the Canadian Association of Administrators of Labour Legislation.


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