The tragic death of 21-year-old Alan Fraser on a construction site in Halifax is enough to start weighing all of the options available, said Merit Nova Scotia president, Michael Kydd.
“This tragedy goes to the heart of the construction industry,” said Kydd who represents non-unionized contractors throughout Nova Scotia. “Last week we introduced the idea of a provincial ombudsman to oversee labour complaints related to safety violations. Today, we stand by that option and really see this as an opportunity to work with the Department of Labour and Advanced Education.”
Merit’s goal is to propose changes to the system that would allow for more employees and employers to confidentially report systemic violations that might otherwise be overseen by department safety compliance officers. It is another level of prevention that could help avert tragic accidents.
“We have complete confidence in the work of our safety compliance officers and the Department of Labour. We know the department’s 1-800 confidential reporting telephone line works and that officers respond to every call,” said Kydd. “But perhaps it’s time to go a step further by having these systemic violations reported to an ombudsman for further investigation. It’s really another level of enforcement that will signal the seriousness of the department’s and industry’s resolve on workplace safety.”
Kydd proposes changes to the Nova Scotia Ombudsman’s Act that would expand his reach to “systemic complaints or violations.”
How those violations are deemed systemic and reported will require further consultation with the department.
“Providing potential solutions is what we do. This is a time for industry to work together — unionized and non-unionized — to weigh all of the options. To expect government to have all the answers just isn’t good enough anymore — this has to be about employers and employees investing in workplace safety together and coming to the table with proactive solutions,” he said.
Merit Nova Scotia hopes to sit down with Labour and Advanced Education Minister Kelly Regan soon to discuss the idea.