News Release Archive

By Labour Minister Guy Brown

When we get up to go to work in the morning, one of the last
things we think of is whether or not we'll be coming home that
night. For most of us, our health and safety at work never
crosses our minds.

Unfortunately, the reality is that workplace accidents claim
lives and cost millions in Nova Scotia each year.

Occupational Health and Safety Week is a time to turn our minds
to the issue of health and safety in the workplace. But really,
health and safety must be a consideration 52 weeks a year.

The stats show that we cannot afford to take workplace health and
safety for granted.

Every year in Canada, one million workers are injured. That's
almost two workers every minute. Last year in Nova Scotia alone,
there were close to 36,000 claims filed with the Workers'
Compensation Board. About $115 million was paid out in benefits.

But it's not just WCB expenditures. There is a long list of other
costs to consider.

Workplace accidents can cause damage to equipment and tools, as
well as production delays and interruptions. There may be
retraining costs, investigation expenses, and lost staff time.
There may be a decline in morale and worker relations. And
perhaps, most importantly, there is the human toll on workers and

All of these items can add up pretty quickly. In 1994, workplace
accidents cost Nova Scotians $575 million in indirect costs.

Without a doubt, the cost of prevention is far less than the cost
of workplace accidents. Regardless of where you work, health and
safety must be everyone's concern -- from management right on
down the line. When it is, everyone benefits.

Workers and their families have greater security and peace of
mind. Employers benefit from a healthy and productive workforce,
cost-effective work practices, and a good reputation for health
and safety. Quite simply, it is good business.

Working safely benefits our economy as well. It strengthens Nova
Scotia's reputation as a safe and attractive place to invest. It
gives us a competitive advantage.

On May 17, Nova Scotia passed a new Occupational Health and
Safety Act. This act provides a solid framework for improving
health and safety for all Nova Scotians.

Overall, the legislation strengthens three basic rights -- the
right to know, the right to refuse, and the right to participate
in workplace health and safety.

The new act creates a fair appeal process, which has been
recommended for many years. It gives greater support to employees
who refuse unsafe work. There are clearer definitions of roles
and responsibilities. There are requirements for occupational
health and safety policies, programs and representatives.

The new act also brings us up-to-date and in line with other
Canadian provinces. It introduces new fine levels. It helps
officers make better use of time and resources. It focuses on
early education and prevention.

The new rules also provide back-up to the widely-accepted
internal responsibility system (IRS). This is the idea that the
best way to build safer workplaces is from the inside. Management
and employees are key. With the proper support and commitment, it
can work. A few examples are Stora Forest Industries, Point
Tupper and Canadian Salt, Pugwash and smaller companies like
Greenlaw Construction in Lawrencetown and J.A. Tate Construction
in Antigonish.

The Department of Labour must be part of that system. It is there
to provide support, information and education -- and step in when
responsibilities are not carried out. It must be a partnership
for health and safety.

This government is committed to making Nova Scotia a safe,
attractive place for employees to work and for employers to set
up shop. The new OHS Act is an important step toward that goal.

The new act provides a solid foundation on which to build. The
department is working to address other issues like resources. We
are now in the process of hiring chief officers to manage
services in the four regions of the province. As well, we have
secured funding for three additional officers and two education
development officers.

Over the past few years, there has been ongoing training for our
staff. We have a new tracking system that gives officers better
information and improves monitoring of activities. We have
improved OHS policies, and restructured the OHS Division to
better serve the needs of our clients.

We are also forming new partnerships with industry. In the past
two years, we have worked with the film industry, oil delivery
industry, forest products industry, and construction industry to
solve problems in their workplaces. We are working with the Nova
Scotia Construction Safety Association to provide training.
Courses on safe scaffolding and trenching are two examples. And
over the summer, the department will be offering education
sessions on our new legislation.

We are looking towards the future. The new OHS Act puts us on the
right path. With the support of Nova Scotians, we are headed
toward a safer, healthier future.


EDITORS NOTE: Canadian Occupational Health and Safety Week is
June 3-7.

Contact: Jennifer MacIsaac  902-424-4680

trp                     May 31, 1996 - 1:10 p.m.