A Nova Scotia man recently made history as the first safety manager fined on an Occupational Health and Safety charge, resulting in a $1,000 fine (plus related surcharges).
The defendant was working as safety manager, overseeing the dismantle and removal of steel-making equipment from a Nova Scotia steel firm. The defendant implemented a comprehensive safety program, based roughly on the steel firm's pre-existing procedures; he had modified the procedures as he saw fit, but neglected to consult with the Joint Health and Safety Committee. Within a few months, an experienced ironworker was killed during the rigging and movement of a load of heavy steel beams.
While the ensuing court case reflected on the tragic events surrounding the victim's death, the actual charges weren't linked to the fatal accident — rather, they were of an administrative nature. Nova Scotia OH&S laws dictate that the development of a safety program must involve consultation with the regional JHSC - something that the defendant was well aware of. The court case did not question the quality of the safety program, nor did it claim that the defendant had any involvement in the fatal accident. Instead, this was a prosecution based solely on an administrative regulatory issue.
Charges against the defendant involved the failure to take adequate precautions to protect employee health and safety, and failure to ensure that the OH&S program included provisions for healthy and safety training and supervision, hazard identification and reporting, workplace OH&S monitoring, and for monitoring the implementation and effectiveness of the OH&S program.
While this prosecution may seem unusual,it demonstrates that there is an expected responsibility on the part of the safety manager to ensure that they have taken the required steps in developing a safety program - including consulting with the necessary government agencies, and maintening and reviewing the OH&S program regularly to ensure its ongoing effectiveness. The Nova Scotia ruling shows that safety managers are now at risk of prosecution and must carefully follow regulations for establishing and maintaining an adequate safety program — or they may be facing serious consequences.
Safety managers can prove due diligence and regulatory compliance by using software to document and track all of their workplace actions and procedures for possible use in future litigation.
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