Building safer worksites through prime contractor legislation

Saskatchewan’s legislation surrounding the occupational health and safety of its people includes prime contractors under the Saskatchewan Employment Act (SEA). Mandated in 2015, the intent of the legislation is to have in place a central role that is responsible for the coordination of health and safety activities at multi-employer worksites.

Owners, subcontractors, and even prime contractors may experience confusion with respect to their roles and which party is ultimately responsible for worksite safety. The legislation is intended to reduce worksite risks by eliminating the practice of sub-assigning liability and responsibility by providing one point of reference.

The prime contractor legislation applies to the oil and gas industry in Saskatchewan specifically at multi-employer worksites, where, according to the legislation, “there are 10 or more workers or self-employed persons under the direction of two or more employers.”

Follow the four-step framework

Enform is Canada’s safety association for the upstream oil and gas industry developed Crossing Borders Executive Summary with legal consultation from law firm Bennett Jones. This document serves as a tool to help companies achieve compliance with occupational health and safety legislation in terms of applicable jurisdiction, worksite, and legal roles and responsibilities at the worksite.

Crossing Borders provides a four-step process and framework, consisting of specific questions that should be answered prior to undertaking any work within western Canada:

  1. What jurisdiction is applicable to the work?
  2. What is the worksite for that work?
  3. What is the stakeholder’s legal role at the worksite?
  4. What responsibilities attach to that role?

Prime contractor regimes can vary significantly from province to province and companies should carefully consider which laws, federal or provincial, apply in the jurisdiction they are operating in. In Saskatchewan under provincial legislation, though not an exhaustive list, the prime contractor has a number of duties:

  1. Ensure all activities at the worksite, which may affect the health and safety of workers or self-employed persons, are coordinated
  2. Ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that all employers and self-employed persons have adequate and appropriate policies, procedures, safe-work practices, equipment, competent workers and information to ensure compliance with Part III of the SEA and the Saskatchewan Prime Contractor Regulation
  3. Prepare a written plan that addresses how these requirements will be met
  4. Identify a competent person/designated supervisor to oversee and direct the activities of employers, workers and self-employed persons at the worksite
  5. Identify and inform employers, workers, and self-employed persons about the hazards at the worksite
  6. Ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that employers or self-employed persons at the worksite eliminate or control hazards identified by the prime contractor.

“Our industry is not only focused on the health and safety of their direct employees but that of the subcontractors that they hire. Prime contractors require that subcontractors have an effective health and safety plan in place, that they have a certificate of recognition in some cases and that they’ve been vetted by certified registration firms prior to bidding. Prime contractors have on-site orientation and monitor compliance, going well beyond other industry sectors,” says Bob Ross, manager of Enform’s regional office in Saskatchewan. “Where a regulatory duty is imposed on more than one person, the person with the greatest degree of control over the matters imposed by the duty, has the primary obligation to ensure compliance. This is where the new prime contractor legislation clearly lays out those responsibilities.”

Mission: Zero

While staying safe on the job is a shared responsibility, it is crucial that all parties understand their respective roles and conduct due diligence prior to starting a job.

“Open communication between all parties including the project owner, prime contractor, subcontractors and vendors, supervisors and their workers should take place regularly and before work commences,” says Cameron MacGillivray, president and CEO of Enform. “Understanding the hazards on a worksite, specific safety roles and having policies in place for managing contractors can go a long way in minimizing the risk of injuries.”

MacGillivray sees safety as a shared effort. “Together with industry and our regulatory partners WorkSafe Saskatchewan and the Workers’ Compensation Board, we can work toward Misson: Zero. Achieving zero injuries and zero fatalities in oil and gas ensures everyone goes home safely every day,” he says.

Safety is a top-of-mind priority for every worker and the many oil and gas companies operating in Saskatchewan. The prime contractor legislation is just one component in making Saskatchewan a safer province to live, work and play in.

About Enform

Enform is the upstream oil and gas industry’s advocate and leading resource for the continuous improvement of safety performance. Our mission is to help companies achieve their safety goals by providing practices, assessment, training, support, metrics and communication.

Enform’s regional office in Saskatchewan is located in Weyburn and offers the following services:

  • One-on-one industry consultations to help companies improve their safety performance
  • Health and safety advisory committees and working groups
  • Facility to complete online oil and gas safety training
  • Printing of replacement certificates

For more information on safety training and resources, visit or contact

Enform Saskatchewan
Suite 208, 117-Third St NE
Weyburn, SK S4H 0W3
Phone: 306.842.9822
Toll Free: 1.877.336.3676


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