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Nov 26, 2012

Nova Scotia seeks changes to administrative penalties for OHS offences

By COS staff
Nova Scotia will undertake a review of its administrative penalties for occupational health and safety infractions, the province's Ministry of Labour and Advanced Education announced.

The province's administrative penalties, which were put in place in 2010, will be reviewed as part of Nova Scotia's five-year workplace safety strategy being developed with the Workers' Compensation Board. The strategy aims to make Nova Scotia one of the best places to work in Canada, the ministry said.

"Our focus is protecting workers, and administrative penalties are an important tool," said Labour and Advanced Education Minister Marilyn More. "That said, we need to make sure they are having the best impact as we continue to improve safety for our workers.

More said the review aims to ensure administrative penalties are appropriate for the right types of offences and promoting better overall safety.

"We are seeing improvements in our safety record, but there is still much work to be done," said More. "This strategy will work to identify areas that need improvement, and ways that we can make our workplaces safer, so that all Nova Scotians who get up and go to work, return home safe."

Over the past several months, the province and the Workers Compensation Board have been gathering feedback from employees, employers and other safety partners for the five-year workplace strategy. Twenty-six consultations took place across the province with more than 400 participants, and another 1,000 Nova Scotians provided feedback online. A strategy framework has been developed, and consultations will continue over the next couple of months, the ministry said.

Among concerns raised during consultations were about administrative penalties and alleged inconsistencies with the way the penalties were being levied, according to the ministry.

"We are pleased that the province has listened to the construction industry and is taking initiative to review these penalties," said Duncan Williams, president of the Construction Association of Nova Scotia. "These penalties have their place in preventing workplace accidents, but we feel the administration and processes require examination and can be improved going forward."

"Safe workplaces and workers are a critical part of Nova Scotia's future," said Rick Clark, president, Nova Scotia Federation of Labour. "Administration penalties are just one tool that help us make that happen, and we need a review that will help align the penalties with all the other tools available."

A finalized workplace safety strategy is expected to be released early in the new year.

For more information about the workplace safety strategy, visit www.workplacesafetystrategy.ca.