The Nova Scotia government has introduced legislation to improve the safety penalties system.
Fines collected from employers and employees who break safety laws will now go towards initiatives that will help make workplaces safer. The process to appeal penalties will also be simplified, said the government.
Labour and Advanced Education Minister Kelly Regan introduced amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act as a first step in rolling out the new administrative penalty system. New regulations in the New Year will focus on the most serious infractions, repeat offenders, and workplace safety education.
"Nova Scotians said loud and clear they want specific changes to the administrative penalties system to target serious infractions and repeat offenders, and to make the system more consistent and fair," said Regan. "Two of the biggest concerns were how the funds were spent and the process around appeals. We listened and we're making these changes."
The amendment will streamline the appeal process, with the Labour Board now hearing all appeals, including compliance orders and administrative penalties, which will lead to consistent, fair decisions.
The revenue collected will be directed into a fund to support workplace safety initiatives.
"These changes are great; I'm glad to see government is listening," said Nova Scotia Construction Safety Association's general manager Bruce Collins. "Stakeholders were clear this revenue should be redirected to safety initiatives as opposed to general revenue and this is good news."
The province launched a review of administrative penalties system in February 2013 after employers said fines were issued inconsistently and, sometimes, unfairly. The auditor general also highlighted the need for greater consistency and emphasis on prevention.
In July, a discussion paper was released that outlined a proposed framework. Regulations in the new year will address how the system will work, and will include details around when a penalty is issued, the timing, and the fine amount.
"As co-chair of the Minister of Labour and Advanced Education's Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Council, I represent employers across the province," said Harris McNamara, health and safety director at Emera. "I've been a part of this process all along and am pleased to know that the new system will allow for workplace safety education, redirect funds into workplace initiatives, and focus on the most serious infractions and repeat offenders."
In the workplace safety strategy, the province committed to reviewing the administrative penalty system.
The province is stepping up its safety efforts by hiring more safety inspectors, working with industry to ensure officers are getting to more high-risk workplaces, and improving documentation and follow-up of compliance orders.