Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine
Nova Scotia’s Department of Labour and Advanced Education has released a discussion paper outlining a proposed system for administrative penalties in the province.
Although penalties have been used effectively to ensure that workplace health and safety laws are followed since January 2010, the department says it has heard from employers and workers that the system needs to be improved.
“They want us to focus more on prevention, while sending a clear message to employers that there is a zero tolerance for rule-breakers who risk the lives and health of workers or who are repeat offenders,” provincial labour minister Frank Corbet said in a statement on July 29, 2013. He added that some employers indicated the fines were issued inconsistently and sometimes unfairly.
In the discussion paper, the department proposed a graduated system comprising three levels – education, orders and penalties. This approach will focus on educating stakeholders and enforcing the law through compliance issues before issuing administrative penalties. Under the new system, safety officers will also have the discretion and power to issue administrative penalties to an employer, supervisor or employee under the following circumstances:
• Posing a serious risk to health or life by contravening a high-risk section of the Occupational Health and Safety Act or of regulations such as, but not limited to, fall protection and scaffolding; lockout; confined-space entry; excavations and trenches; WHMIS; personal protective equipment; blasting; and diving;
• A contravention that poses a serious risk to health and life and requires a stop-work order;
• A second contravention of the same section of the act or regulation made under the act; and
• A second contravention of a different section of the act or regulation made under the act showing non-commitment to the Internal Responsibility System.
The Department of Labour and Advanced Education has also developed a structured fine schedule outlining penalty amounts for infractions and how fines will escalate with repeat offences.
“Not only do we now have stronger workplace health and safety regulations and enforcement, but we also now have a stronger emphasis on public education which is key,” Rick Clarke, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour in Halifax, says in a statement.
It sounds, to me, that the direction that this discussion is meant to go after the chronic or more dangerous employers and leave the small fry alone. Yes, education has its place, but how many employers will take the training and apply the lessons learned to all aspect of their business? A new business may well become an unsafe one. Nova Scotia cannot let that happen.
The real issue here is to ensure an active safety culture and force employers to think of their workforce as an asset and protect it accordingly. Look at ‘Fall Protection’, how many of you, the readership see roofers not tied off? All the time, you may say, well you are very close to the truth. Some have learned the lessons and applied it to the job. Others are still not dealing with compliance and their workers, again, are at risk.
It is a tough battle in every province!
Ensure your workplace is a safe place!
Remember – In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”
‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.
Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.