Is regulatory harmonization possible across provinces?

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For years, provincial regulators have been hearing industry’s plea for harmonization of the adopted technical safety standards and regulations across provincial borders.  While Canadian codes and standards are established and intended for nation-wide adoption, each province adopts codes and standards in different manners either in whole, in part, or with stated exceptions through their individual regulatory frameworks.  These differences in regulatory adoption can be explained for reasons that are unique to the circumstances surrounding each province’s industrial makeup and legislative priorities.

BC’s Alternative Safety Approaches (ASA) regulation may offer a solution to industry’s interest in standards harmonization.  The ASA regulation offers instruments to enable full regulatory compliance to the requirements of BC’s Safety Standards Act, while allowing for flexibility in the recognition of safety practices adopted in other regulatory jurisdictions.  In essence, through the ASA regulation, Technical Safety BC (who administers this regulation) can allow for harmonization of safety programs already in place and functioning elsewhere within your operations.

Sounds simple?  It should.  But it doesn’t come without some important effort.  In order to have an existing safety management program recognized in BC, you, as the business owner or operator, must propose your program as an alternative to the established and prescriptive regulations in this province. Accordingly, you must do this by recognizing the differences between BC’s technical safety regulations and those referenced in your existing operating program. While most people would say this approach holds true for any other regulatory jurisdiction, the difference in this case is that you may not need to alter your established practices as long as it can be demonstrated that the safety outcome of your practices will meet the intent and objectives of BC’s Safety Standards Act.

Current adopters of the ASA regulatory instruments have found value in four primary areas:

  1. administrative process alternatives;
  2. harmonization of international codes and standards, and/or of technical standards and proven operating practices in other regulatory jurisdictions;
  3. equipment certification alternatives; and,
  4. alternatives to prescribed worker qualifications.

How can you begin to develop an alternative proposal?

  1. Invest some time to understand what the prescriptive regulations call for, and the safety objectives of these requirements.  Seek local advice from licensed contractors, consultants, and even Technical Safety BC.  You can also visit www.technicalsafetybc.ca/regulations.
  2. Compare your company’s existing safety management system / program with the requirements of BC’s regulations.
  3. List the gaps or regulatory “rub points” where current practices may not appear to meet the prescribed method of compliance.  As an example, this might be an identification of specific codes, standards, or regulation clauses referring to a process, equipment certification, or worker qualifications.
  4. Articulate how your current practices achieve the intent or safety objective for the identified items above.
  5. Submit your information in an alternative proposal application, and you are well on your way to a formal assessment.

While the above procedure sounds simple, we acknowledge that some owners may be unfamiliar with local codes, standards and regulations.  Rest assured Technical Safety BC is here to help simplify your approach to full and innovative compliance to BC’s Safety Standard Act.

For more information about BC’s Alternative Safety Approaches regulation, contact us at asa@technicalsafetybc.ca

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