December 04, 2014

Big Changes to Nova Scotia Occupational Health and Safety Rules - What They Mean to Your Business

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The Nova Scotia Occupational Health and Safety regime is undergoing a complete overhaul, with potential huge impacts for employers respecting cost of compliance and risk of liability.  The changes are part of the five-year Workplace Safety Strategy, a joint initiative between the Department of Labour and Advanced Education and the Workers' Compensation Board.  The Strategy was developed in direct response to a recognition that the old system—a piecemeal assortment of rules and regulations—was tough to navigate and produced inconsistency in interpretation and enforcement. 

The myriad of regulations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act are being gradually consolidated into the all-embracing Workplace Health and Safety Regulations.  At the same time, significant amendments are being made.  A table summarizing the status of these amendments appears below.

The first phase of amendments came into effect this Fall.  Administrative penalties were a major focus.  Noteworthy changes included a shift in:

    1. Who decides whether a penalty should be issued (now the OHS Officer, rather than someone who did not personally attend the workplace).
    2. Guidelines for determining when to issue a penalty.
    3. Modified Guidelines for penalty amounts.
    4. Extended appeal periods.
    5. A streamlined appeal process.
    6. The power to direct the collected funds to workplace safety initiatives.

The second phase of changes are presently in draft form, with public comment open until February 27, 2015.  The draft amendments propose big changes to a number of industry-specific regulations, but also introduce important amendments of general application.  Of particular importance is the section on Occupational Health, which is a fresh addition to the new Regulations.  It addresses environmental hazards such as air quality, temperature, vibration, chemical exposure, and sound exposure.  Notably, it requires a hearing surveillance and conservation program for noisy workplaces.

In addition, Phase II offers some guidance—but also introduces heavy burdens—to Health and Safety Committees and Representatives.  For example, Committees must have specific rules of procedure, and all members will be required to undergo at least 21 hours of training within 90 days of being appointed to the Committee.  This training must be performed by a qualified instructor.

Amendments have already been made that affect every workplace, and more are on the horizon.  In light of these sweeping changes, reliance on outdated advice and policies will almost certainly put employers at risk of penalty or prosecution. 

In addition to the table below, please also see the OHS job-aid for Nova Scotia and New Brunswick at the link below:
Legal Liability and Due Diligence - Safety is a Shared Responsibility

Workplace Health and Safety Regulations

The following table sets out the present status of the consolidation and amendments to the Workplace Health and Safety Regulations.

Topic
Old New     
Status   
Occupational Health
*new Part 2
Yes
Phase 2

amendments

WHMIS WHMIS Regulations
Part 3
No
First Aid
Occupational Health and Safety First Aid Regulations
Part 4
Phase 2
Sanitation and Accomodation
Part 4
Part 5
Phase 2
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Part 3
Part 6
Phase 2
Handling and Storage of Materials
Part 5
Part 7
No
Tools Part 9
Part 8
No
Mechanical Safety and Robotics
Part 8
Part 9
No
Cranes, Hoists and Mobile Equipment
Part 7
Part 10
No
Lock-out Part 6
Part 11
No
Premises and Building Safety
Part 13
Part 12
No
Construction and Demolition
Part 13
Part 13
No
Excavations and Trenches
Part 14
Part 14
Phase 2
Electrical Safety
Part 11
Part 15
No
Welding, Cutting, Burning and Soldering
Part 10
Part 16
No
Equipment for Firefighters
Part 16
Part 17
No
Blasting Safety
Blasting Safety Regulations
Part 18
Phase 2
Confined Spaces
Part 12
Part 19
Phase 2
Surface Mine Workings
Part 15
Part 20
Phase 2
Fall Protection
Fall Protection and Scaffolding Regulations
Part 21
Yes
Work Requiring Rope Access
*new
Part 22
Yes
Scaffolds and Other Elevated Work-platforms
Fall Protection and Scaffolding Regulations
Part 23
Yes
Temporary Workplaces on Highways
*new
Part 24
Yes
Occupational Diving
Occupational Diving Regulations
Part 25
Phase 2
Violence in the Workplace
Violence in the Workplace Regulations
Part 26
No
Health and Safety Committees and Representatives
*new
Part 27
Phase 2
Not Allocated
  Part 28
 
Not Allocated
  Part 29
 
Reviews and Appeals
Occupational Health and Safety Appeal Panel Regulations
Part 30
Yes
Administrative Penalties
Occupational Health and Safety Administrative Penalties Regulations
Part 31
Yes

For a printable PDF version of this newsletter, please click the link below:
Cox & Palmer Regional Construction Group Newsletter - December 2014: Big Changes to Nova Scotia Occupational Health and Safety Regime


Cox & Palmer publications are intended to provide information of a general nature only and not legal advice. The information presented is current to the date of publication and may be subject to change following the publication date.