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The Canadian province of Nova Scotia plans to amend its Occupational Health and Safety Act to crack down on employers who repeatedly violate workplace safety laws.
The proposed amendments would give government regulators additional tools to enforce safety requirements for employers that repeatedly put workers at risk of serious injury or death, the government of Nova Scotia said Tuesday in a statement.
The changes would define serious injury as one that endangers life or causes permanent harm, and define repeatedly as occurring more than once in the previous three years, according to the release.
The revisions also would allow a court to grant an injunction to stop an employer with repeat violations from working in a specific industry, require repeat violators to inform regulators of future work locations and allow shutdowns of multiple locations where the same serious risks are believed to be present, according to the release.
“Most employers operate safe workplaces, but there are some who repeatedly break serious safety laws and we need to hold them more accountable,” Labor and Advanced Education Minister Kelly Regan said in a statement. “With these changes, we are getting tougher on those who again and again put people at risk of serious injury or death.”
The amendments were announced ahead of Canada's National Day of Mourning on Thursday, which honors those who died or suffered an injury or illness due to a workplace incident.
In 2015, the province had eight acute fatalities resulting from a traumatic injury and 19 chronic fatalities due to industrial disease or a medical condition, according to Nova Scotia's Department of Labor and Advanced Education.
Between 2010 and 2015, the department conducted 16,000 workplace inspections of the province's roughly 30,000 businesses – issuing 69,000 orders, 3,500 administrative penalties, 100 summary offense tickets and initiating 40 prosecutions. It is not unusual for an employer to have repeat orders, but when they have repeat administrative penalties (5%), repeat summary offense tickets (3%), and repeat prosecutions (2.5%), it could signal a problem, according to the department.
The bill must be approved by the House of Assembly and receive Royal Assent before becoming law and would only take effect on proclamation, meaning the changes do not become law until a later date specified by the government to allow for policy development and communication with and education of employers, according to the department.
Employers have more to worry about given the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's ramp-up of litigation to protect whistleblowing employees as it targets common workplace safety policies as well as supervisors.