News Release Archive

  Nova Scotia's Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act will
  become clearer and stronger with draft changes introduced
  today by Labour Minister Guy Brown.
  "The changes we are proposing will give Nova Scotians a
  stronger framework for health and safety in their
  workplace," said Mr. Brown. "It will mean good things for
  workers, families, employers and our economy."
  The draft amendments, tabled in the legislature, allows Nova
  Scotians to become familiar with the changes and offer
  feedback. The minister intends to re-introduce the bill for
  passage during the next legislative session.
  "The need for change is crucial, but it is also important
  for Nova Scotians to have a solid understanding of  their
  rights and responsibilities -- before they become law," said
  the minister.
  For almost three years, the Nova Scotia Occupational Health
  and Safety Advisory Council has been reviewing the
  province's workplace health and safety rules. This included
  extensive consultation and participation from over 100
  labour and management volunteers.
  Government's draft amendments build on the recommendations
  of the advisory council, which submitted a final report to
  the minister at the end of September.
  "This was a real partnership effort. I'd like to thank
  everyone involved in the review for their hard work and
  dedication. Together, management and labour tackled
  difficult issues and came up with practical solutions."
  The foundation of the OHS Act is internal responsibility
  -- the concept that people inside the workplace are in the
  best position to influence health and safety. This
  widely-accepted philosophy is clearly defined in the draft
  The draft bill strengthens three basic rights: the right to
  know, the right to refuse unsafe work, the right to
  participate in workplace health and safety issues.
  For the first time, employers and employees have the right
  to appeal decisions of officers. Workers who are adversely
  affected for their involvement in health and safety will
  have a more comprehensive process for resolving complaints.
  Employees and employers will also have the right to
  accompany an OHS officer during workplace inspections.
  Other changes include the requirement for OHS policies in
  organizations with five or more employees. Health and safety
  programs will be required for companies with 20 or more
  The current act calls for joint management-labour OHS
  committees in workplaces with 20 or more employees. To
  support improvements in smaller organizations, the proposals
  suggest OHS representatives for workplaces with five or more
  The draft bill also clarifies the roles and duties of
  various workplace parties, including the chain of
  responsibility on multi-employer sites. For the first time,
  owners, professional engineers, architects and suppliers of
  health and safety services will be considered workplace
  The proposals also improve an employee's right to know about
  health and safety issues. For example, the process for
  communicating OHS information is more clearly defined with
  new requirements for posting. Written responses to OHS
  orders and committee recommendations will also be required.
  The draft bill gives greater support to employees who refuse
  unsafe work with reasonable cause. Work refusals also will
  be broadened to include situations where the safety of the
  general public is at risk.
  In the area of enforcement, a number of positive steps are
  proposed. In keeping with public feedback, penalties will
  rise from a maximum of $10,000 to $250,000. Maximum
  imprisonment will increase from one year to two years. Fines
  for each additional day of offence will increase from $1,000
  to $25,000.
  The draft bill also allows for a system of creative
  sentencing in addition to regular penalties. At the court's
  discretion, this might involve supporting efforts in OHS
  education, participating in community service or publishing
  details about the offence.
  The proposals pave the way for occupational health and
  safety officers to use summary offence tickets. This would
  improve the division's ability to enforce rules in a way
  that makes the best use of time and resources.
  The bill also focuses on early training and prevention by
  phasing-in the duty to teach OHS principles in trade schools
  and community colleges.
  The minister encouraged all Nova Scotians to become informed
  about the proposed changes. "Workplace health and safety
  must be a priority for every Nova Scotian. Today, we have
  taken an important step in improving health and safety.
  Tomorrow, we must work together to for a safer, healthier
  Note to Editors: Copies of the draft bill are available at
  the Nova Scotia Government Bookstore or Nova Scotia
  Communications Services, both at ground level on 1700
  Granville Street.
  Contact: Jennifer MacIsaac  902-424-4680 or 902-424-3219
  trp                        Dec. 14, 1995