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Variances to & acceptances under the OHS Regulation

The Occupational Health and Safety Regulation contains legal requirements that must be met at all workplaces under the inspectional jurisdiction of WorkSafeBC. However, it may not always be possible for an employer to comply with a particular regulatory requirement in certain workplaces or while conducting certain work processes. In such cases, we may issue a variance or an acceptance.

Variances

If you as an employer are unable to comply with a particular regulatory requirement in certain workplaces or while conducting certain work processes, we may issue a variance to the requirement if there is an alternative way to ensure worker health and safety in these circumstances. A variance may be granted through an order under the authority of the Workers Compensation Act (Part 3, Division 9). The order would include special terms and conditions that you must comply with to maintain the variance.

We will consider issuing a variance if your proposed alternative to a regulatory requirement ensures health and safety and meets at least one of the following two criteria:

  • Provides protection for workers equal to or greater than the protection established by the provision to be varied, or
  • Has substantially the same purpose and effect as the provision to be varied

A variance may be proposed in regards to a specified workplace or a specified work process. Variances are time limited. They may be granted for the duration of a specific project (not exceeding three years). Unless otherwise noted, a variance ceases to have effect three years from the date it was issued. On request and under certain circumstances a longer term may be considered.

Division 9 of the Workers Compensation Act sets out in detail the legal requirements that must be met in order for WorkSafeBC to consider granting a variance.

How to apply for a variance

To apply for a variance, you need to provide a submission that includes the following components:

  • Completed Request for Variance to the OHS Regulation cover sheet
  • A signed letter (on company letterhead) requesting the variance
  • A description of the requested variance, with reference to the section(s) of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation proposed for modification
  • The specific location(s) of the workplace relevant to the variance
  • The type and nature of the work process(es) relevant to the variance
  • A detailed justification for the request, including reasons why it is unreasonable for you to comply with the regulatory provision(s) to support the request
  • A description of how the proposed request meets or exceeds the level of protection to workers afforded by the Regulation
  • Details of how workers will be trained and supervised
  • Other relevant information (safe work procedures, diagrams, specifications, etc.)

Send your completed packaged by mail or email to Prevention Practices and Quality (see Contact information).

Wherever possible, submit your application well in advance of when decisions are needed, as applications take approximately 60 to 90 days to review. Complex cases may take longer.

When applying for a variance, you are also required to:

  • Post a copy of the application at the workplace where the variance would apply and keep it there until you receive the decision on the application for variance
  • Provide a copy of the application to the joint health and safety committee at the workplace or the worker health and safety representative, as applicable
  • Send a copy to the union if workers at the workplace are represented by a union

If you request the variance to apply to a workplace that does not yet exist, you will be required to make other provisions for providing notice of the application.

Acceptances

Many sections of the Regulation refer to standards, procedures, or means “acceptable to the Board” (for more information, see the OHS guidelines for those particular sections of the Regulation). You may apply for an acceptance, which we will consider if your submission includes all of the required information and meets the intent of the Regulation.

An acceptance may be proposed in regards to a specified workplace or a specified work process, including alternative procedures, and/or alternative standards. Acceptances are time-limited. An acceptance may be granted for the duration of a specific project but will generally cease to be valid three years from the date it was issued. On request and under certain circumstances a longer term may be considered.

How to apply for an acceptance

To apply for an acceptance, you need to provide a submission that includes the following components:

  • Completed Request for Acceptance Under the OHS Regulation cover sheet
  • A signed letter (on company letterhead) requesting the acceptance
  • A description of the requested acceptance, with reference to the section(s) of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation the acceptance applies to
  • The specific location (s) of the workplace relevant to the acceptance
  • The type and nature of the work process(es) relevant to the acceptance
  • Details of how workers will be trained and supervised
  • Other relevant information (safe work procedures, diagrams, specifications, etc.)

Send your completed package by mail or email to Prevention Practices and Quality (see Contact information).

Wherever possible, submit your application well in advance of when decisions are needed, as applications take approximately 60 to 90 days to review. Complex cases may take longer.

Applications and decisions

Review of applications for variances and acceptances

Before making a decision, we consult with subject-matter experts and in the case of a variance, parties who may be affected. These parties typically include unions representing affected workers and the joint health and safety committee or worker health and safety representative.

We may contact you for information about the identity of affected parties and other necessary information if it is not clear from your application.

Decisions on applications for variances and acceptances

We will issue a decision to you in writing, either issuing a variance order or granting an acceptance, or denying the application. In the case of a variance, we will also send copies of the decision to any affected parties who submitted information in the consultation process. Once you receive a variance decision, it must be posted at the worksite:

  • For seven days if the variance request was refused
  • For the term of variance if granted

Acceptances do not require posting.

Contact information

WorkSafeBC Prevention Practices and Quality
PO Box 5350 Stn Terminal
Vancouver, BC V6B 5L5
Phone: 604.231.8644
Toll-free: 1.888.621.7233, local 8644
Email: varohs@worksafebc.com