Changes in B.C. will allow religious head coverings instead of hard hats
By Anthony Capkun
June 2, 2021 – Changes are coming to British Columbia’s Occupational Health & Safety Regulation that may allow people who wear religious head coverings to forgo protective headgear.
Starting September 1, 2021, B.C.’s Ministry of Labour says employers will be required to review each area of a jobsite to determine whether a person must wear safety headgear, such as a hard hat, in that area.
Through a risk assessment, employers will identify safety precautions that can be taken to prevent head injuries—and the mandatory wearing of protective headgear—altogether.
This regulatory change provides more opportunities for employers to safely accommodate workers who wear head coverings, such as a turban, as a religious practice, says the ministry.
The Amendment to Part 8 “Personal protective clothing and equipment” strikes the clause:
8.11(1) Safety headgear must be worn by a worker in any work area where there is a danger of head injury from falling, flying or thrown objects, or other harmful contacts.
And replaces it with:
8.11(1) Before a worker starts a work assignment in a work area where there is a risk of head injury to the worker from falling, flying or thrown objects, or other harmful contacts, the employer must take measures to
(a) eliminate the risk, or
(b) if it is not practicable to eliminate the risk, minimize the risk to the lowest level practicable by applying the following control measures in order of priority:
(i) engineering controls;
(ii) administrative controls;
(iii) requiring the worker to wear safety headgear.
Prior to the regulations coming into effect, WorkSafeBC will send information to employers to ensure they are aware of, and understand, the changes. The agency will include information on each of the regulatory changes, with links to the revisions and any appropriate guidelines.
After the changes take effect on September 1, 2021, WorkSafeBC will continue to conduct inspections in the industries with the highest risk of serious injuries, adds the ministry.
“The use of a hard hat as personal protective equipment is the least effective compared to other safety controls,” said Baltej Dhillon, WorkSafeBC board member. “This change supports worker safety and will allow more Sikhs to come to work without having to compromise their religious beliefs.”
Employers in B.C. are legally obligated to ensure the health & safety of their workers, as well as accommodate a worker’s religious practice (under the B.C. Human Rights Code).