Occupational Health and Safety: A Shared Responsibility : NS Labour and Advanced Education, Health and Safety

Who is responsible for creating and maintaining a safe and healthy workplace?

Nova Scotia's Occupational Health and Safety Act is based on the idea that the primary responsibility for occupational health and safety is shared by everyone connected with that workplace — including employers, employees, contractors, owners and suppliers. This is known as the Internal Responsibility System (IRS). Since some people at the workplace have more power to influence health and safety at the workplace, they bear more responsibility than someone with less power. For example, an employer will usually bear more responsibility than a supplier of goods.

What is the Department of Labour's role?

The Occupational Health and Safety Division of the Department of Labour promotes the importance of occupational health and safety, provides support to the people at the workplace as they carry out their occupational health and safety responsibilities, and steps in when these responsibilities are not being carried out. However, ultimate responsibility for occupational health and safety remains with the people directly connected with the workplace.

What are the main responsibilities of employers?

Employers must take every reasonable precaution to ensure the health and safety of persons at or near the workplace. As an employer, some of your main responsibilities include:

  • providing and maintaining equipment with proper safety devices

  • providing employees with the training, information and supervision they need to do their jobs safely, including informing employees about any health or safety hazards in the workplace

  • making sure employees wear personal protective equipment and know how to use it properly

  • establishing a Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee or ensuring that a Health and Safety Representative is selected, where required by legislation.
  • co-operating with the Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee or Health and Safety Representative and with Health and Safety Officers from the Department of Labour

  • preparing and maintaining an occupational health and safety policy and/or program, where required by legislation.

  • preparing a list of hazardous chemicals present in the workplace

  • following the Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations and making sure that employees also follow them
The Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations describe your responsibilities in detail and you are encouraged to read these documents and learn more about what they mean for you and your workplace.

What are the main responsibilities of employees?

Employees must take every reasonable precaution to protect their own the health and safety and the health and safety of other people at or near the workplace. As an employee, some of your main responsibilities include:

  • reporting anything in the workplace that may be dangerous

  • co-operating with the employer and fellow employees to protect health and safety

  • wearing personal protective equipment and following safety procedures

  • co-operating with the Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee or Health and Safety Representative and with Health and Safety Officers from the Department of Labour

  • following the Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations

How can I learn more?

To find out more about your responsibilities under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations, contact:

Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education
Occupational Health & Safety Division
5151 Terminal Road, 6th Floor
PO Box 697
Halifax, Nova Scotia
B3J 2T8

Phone: (902)424-5400 or 1-800-9LABOUR (in N.S.)
Fax: (902)424-5640
Secure Enquiry Form

Single copies of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, regulations, and related publications are available from the Occupational Health and Safety Division of the Department of Labour at no charge.