The voluntary "Partnerships in Health and Safety (Partnerships)" program was first introduced to employers in Alberta in 1989. This program was considered the first step in addressing a growing concern amongst employers, workers and the government that legislated health and safety programs were not reducing workplace injuries and costs. This program was also designed to support the concept that the development of health and safety practices that are driven by internal needs, the Internal Responsibility (IR) system, are more likely be accepted and used.

Through a series of focused meetings between Alberta Occupational Health & Safety (AOH&S), Workers Compensation Board (WCB), employers, industry groups and labour, the Partnerships program evolved from a pilot program for 2 industries into a provincial program that affects all industries. A defined structure for developing, implementing and assessing a basic health and safety system is at the core of the program. A series of financial incentives, provided by the Alberta WCB, are linked to the successful implementation of the requirements defined in this structure.

After 17 years of operation, there are still many Alberta employers, and organizations moving to Alberta, that are unaware of the benefits of participating in this unique Canadian program. There is also a lack of awareness that the success of this program is being examined and piloted in the surrounding provinces of British Columbia and Saskatchewan. This paper will focus on providing organizations with the basic information on how to join the "Partnerships" program and where to obtain vital information on the financial incentives that are offered.

The Evolution of the Partnerships Program

In 1988, Mr. Vern Mallard undertook the task of conducting an extensive review of the Alberta Workers Compensation Board (WCB) and operating systems. One of the major recommendations of the Mallard report was for the WCB to take a more proactive role in injury reduction. The report suggested that this action might be accomplished by working with Alberta Occupational Health and Safety, industry associations and labor organizations. Within the same time period, Alberta Occupational Health and Safety (AOH&S) was also studying the merits of legislating the requirement for health and safety programs for employers in Alberta. This task was assigned to Executive Director William Rozel and Industry Liaison Manager, Robert Hird of AOH&S.

Under the guidance of Mr. Rozel and Mr. Hird, Alberta Occupational Health and Safety conducted an extensive review of North American legislation that required mandatory health and safety programs, and the companies that had instituted these programs. The review concluded that companies with legislated OH&S programs in place had not been able to significantly reduce the number of injury claims being incurred or the costs associated with these claims. The main reasons for this lack of success were:

  • A lack of commitment by the senior management towards OH&S, and;

  • A lack of enforcement by the governing body responsible for health and safety, and;

  • A lack of expertise, or competency, in health and safety program development and evaluation.

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