Legislative Framework : NS Labour and Advanced Education, Health and Safety

The Occupational Health and Safety Act provides for the promotion, co-ordination, administration and enforcement of occupational safety and health in the Province.

The Act places certain duties on employers, employees, self-employed persons, constructors, contractors, professionals, owners, suppliers and providers of occupational health and safety services.

The Act places emphasis on proactive approaches to prevent accidents, injury and disease through an internal responsibility system based on the cooperation and involvement of the workplace parties in occupational health and safety matters.

In addition, the broad duties identified by the Act are further defined by a tier of legislation, commonly referred to as regulations, together with lower tiers of non-statutory codes of practice and guidelines.

The Occupational Health and Safety Division also administers the WHIMIS sections of the Hazardous Products Act (federal).

For information on obtaining a copy of these Acts, please visit the Division's Publications Page.


Regulations have the effect of spelling out the specific requirements of the legislation and may be formatted to prescribe specific standards or performance. Regulations may also have general application or apply to a particular hazard or a particular type of work or workplace.

Specification regulations prescribe the minimum standards that will be considered acceptable. Performance based regulations specify the outcome to be achieved and permit a variety of approaches to achieve the outcome. Both approaches to regulation, separately and in combination, can be found in the Province.

The regulations currently administered by the OH&S Division can be viewed here.

Also, regulations under review or development can be viewed online

Codes of Practice

A code of practice is defined within the Act. It is a document prepared for the purpose of providing: practical advice on preventive strategies; for a specific hazard, in a specific workplace or a practical means of achieving compliance with occupational health and safety in legislation.

A code of practice may contain explanatory information in addition to specific advice on conducting operations. The preventive strategies outlined in a code of practice do not represent the only acceptable means of achieving the standard to which the code refers.

A code of practice does not have the same legal force as a regulation but can be made so, by order of the Director, under the provisions of the Act.

For more information on Codes of Practice, please visit the Division's Publications Page.


The next tier in this process comes in the form of guidelines. A guideline is an explanatory document providing detailed information on the requirements of legislation, regulations, standards, codes of practice or matters relating to occupational health and safety.

The guideline, although not intended as a regulatory instrument, is based on the regulatory framework and provides information on acceptable practices to achieve regulatory compliance. In many cases the guideline will provide interpretation of the intent of the legislation and describe the rational used in its development. The guideline may in addition provide proactive programs or services that exceed the regulatory and legislative requirements.

For more information on Guidelines, please visit the Division's Publications Page.