Corbett uses Davis Day to strengthen labour safety regulations

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HALIFAX – The province is taking more steps to better protect workers.

Labour and Advanced Education Minister Frank Corbett announced details of the actions at the annual Davis Day ceremony, which pays tribute to miners who have been injured or died on the job. The province is strengthening regulations, increasing accountability through better public reporting, making consequences for law-breakers harsher, targeting more surprise inspections and launching a public education campaign.

"This day honours our province's rich history in mining, and it's also a chance to renew our commitment to protect the health and safety of all workers in Nova Scotia," said Corbett. "Families deserve to have their loved ones come home safely from work, and I will do everything in my power to make that happen."

New workplace health and safety regulations increase protection from falls on the job and improve safety for highway workers.

Starting Wednesday, companies on a worksite with a risk of falling from a height of more than three metres, must show proof of adequate fall-protection training. And employers doing work on roads, public parking lots and highways, must have a hazard assessment and written safe-work procedure.

The province is also making information on workplace convictions, such as the guilty parties, the offence and punishment, easier to find, on the department's website. It will be updated quarterly to increase accountability and act as a deterrent.

The province is also working with the Public Prosecution Service to pursue harsher penalties for employers with serious and repeat offences. This includes establishing a prosecutor responsible only for occupational health and safety.

"We are pleased with this proactive approach," said Rick Clarke, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour. "We have long been of the view that if we are to truly make a difference in workplace safety, we need awareness, education and training, as well as compliance with, and enforcement of, the laws with appropriate penalties to match the severity of the violation."

Corbett has directed occupational health and safety officers to increase job-site visits this year, including more surprise inspections for employers with repeat violations. In 2012-13, the province conducted 2,481 job-site inspections.

"The province's workplace safety record has been improving and many employers are working hard to do their part. Some employers with previous convictions have since become safety leaders," said Corbett. "But everyone needs to do more."

The province launched a public education campaign today, calling on everyone concerned about workplace safety to take action. People who see unsafe activity at a workplace, should call 1-800-9-LABOUR, or e-mail ohsdivision@gov.ns.ca.

"This is a positive step in moving Nova Scotians from just knowing about safety, to caring about safety," says Workers' Compensation Board CEO Stuart MacLean. "The Workplace Safety Strategy is our roadmap to a safer province, and actions like those announced today move us closer to our goal."

The province and Workers' Compensation Board released a workplace safety strategy in March. The strategy lays out roles and responsibilities for everyone to work together to make Nova Scotia the safest place to work in Canada.

Organizations: Public Prosecution Service, Compensation Board, Nova Scotia Federation of Labour

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Canada

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