Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine
Nova Scotia is touting improvements on the oh&s front that helped reduce work-related fatalities to 21 last year in 2010 and to cut the lost-time injury rate by 16.5 per cent since 2008.
Nova Scotia’s Department of Labour and Advanced Education in Halifax is “using a mix of education and enforcement to make workplaces safer and healthier,” labour minister Marilyn More says in a statement.
Some of the biggest oh&s gains have been made in the construction sector, which experienced fewer serious injuries, says Kevin Finch, communications advisor for Nova Scotia’s labour department. The improvement in the decrease of the lost time injury issues is being attributed, in part, to employees and employers being more aware of their workplace health and safety rights and responsibilities, and enforcement measures like administrative penalties and compliance orders, Finch says.
Carol MacCulloch, president of the Construction Association of Nova Scotia in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, says the safety performance reflects the “significant investments in health and safety training, in development of programs and really pushing best practices.” Adopting a similar infrastructure in all sectors would help to further improve the province’s overall performance, MacCulloch suggests.
The head of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour (NSFL) in Halifax is pleased that work-related fatalities are down, but argues 21 deaths are still too many. Citing the size of the provincial work force, NSFL president Rick Clarke notes that “it’s hard to say that we’re on the right track.”
Both Clarke and MacCulloch point out that some of the apparent improvement could be the result of the dwindling manufacturing sector, where higher-risk jobs are disappearing.
If oh&s is to become a fundamental aspect of workplace culture, Clarke says the provincial government must clearly communicate that unsafe work is socially unacceptable. One way to do this, he suggests, is to fully embrace the Bill C-45 criminal liability provisions within the Criminal Code of Canada “so that people know, and the courts know, just how seriously occupational health and safety is being taken.”
Clarke calls a recent $38,750 fine for a car dealership following the death of a worker “a slap on the wrist.”
Nova Scotia adopted administrative penalties at the start of 2010. The system allows smaller fines to be levied without the need to go through the courts. Last year, 902 penalties ranging from $100 to $2,000 were handed out, the labour department reports. Of that number, 857 were issued to employers, 22 to workers and 23 to owners, supervisors and others.
“Anecdotally, the construction workers, employers and oh&s training providers have told us the administrative penalties have increased demands for training,” says Finch.
While the penalties are “probably not” a bad idea, Mac-Culloch argues the system’s deployment has been poor. In particular, large construction sites face a disproportionate number of inspections compared with small sites, she says.
As you can see, even Nova Scotia decided to get tough or get tougher on occupational health and safety. Mind you, they even quoted Bill C-45. Ironic, isn’t it? The reason Bill C-45 was created was because of a certain mining accident in New Glasgow over 22 years ago. You would think that it would not have taken so long to make the appropriate health and safety changes since the province of Nova Scotia had all the incentive in the world through the ‘Westray’ mining catastrophe.
In closing, I agree with Rick Clarke here. $38,750 is a slap on the wrist. In Ontario, we have fines into the million dollar range. You can see that the province of Nova Scotia should use a bigger hammer.
Remember – In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”
‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.
Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc