HALIFAX – While a jail sentence for a Nova Scotia employer responsible for a 2013 workplace fatality is welcome news, United Steelworkers (USW) Ontario/Atlantic Director Marty Warren cautioned that workplace fatalities must be viewed as potential crime scenes.
The sentence was handed out to the owner of a Halifax-area contractor for the death of a worker who fell as a result of faulty safety equipment and poor training.
“This sentence of 60 days served on weekends falls under the Occupational Health and Safety Act of Nova Scotia and is not a sufficient deterrent for killing a worker,” said Warren. “This punishment does not fit the crime.”
Warren said Nova Scotia was the epicentre of a decade-long campaign to amend the Criminal Code to hold companies criminally accountable for workplace deaths and injuries. Known as the Westray Law, the 2004 amendments were named to honour the 26 miners killed at the Westray mine on May 9, 1992.
“2017 will mark 25 years since the Westray disaster, and 20 years since the inquiry that recommended Criminal Code changes,” he said. “Those of us who have struggled for proper enforcement of the Westray Law will never forget the words of Justice K. Peter Richard, who said: ‘The Westray story is a complex mosaic of actions, omissions, mistakes, incompetence, apathy, cynicism, stupidity and neglect.’”
Warren said the Nova Scotia government has at least appointed a special prosecutor for workplace safety investigations.
“These are good first steps, but we have a long way to go before there is regular and sustained enforcement for crimes against workers.”
For more information USW’s campaign “Stop the Killing, Enforce the Law,” see www.stopthekilling.ca.
Marty Warren, USW Ontario and Atlantic Director, 416-243-8792
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Sylvia Boyce, USW Ontario/Atlantic Health and Safety Coordinator, 905-741-9830, email@example.com
Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-434-2221, firstname.lastname@example.org