Recent Changes to Nova Scotia’s Occupational Health and Safety Act

Recent Changes to Nova Scotia's Occupational Health and Safety Act

Employers in Nova Scotia are now held more accountable for repeated offences under the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act.

Amendments to the Act were passed in April 2016, but came into force on June 12, 2017. The amendments underscore the Act’s top priority of ensuring that people are safe at work. The changes include providing the government with new tools and authority to enforce safety requirements against employers who are repeat offenders.

The amendments which target employers who repeatedly violate the Act include sections 52(A) and 75(A). These sections give the OHS Director the authority to deal with repeat offenders of the Act by:

  • Issuing stop-work orders at all of an employer’s work sites;
  • Applying to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia for an injunction to prohibit the employer from working in an industry; and
  • Requiring the employer to advise the Director of future work locations and activities.

These amendments strengthen the existing legislation. Before these recent changes, stop-work orders were limited to an individual workplace visited by an OHS officer.

The OHS Act requires employers to create a workplace health and safety policy.
The OHS Act requires employers to create a workplace health and safety policy.

Other amendments to the Act apply more broadly, and should be noted by all employers operating in Nova Scotia. The amendments clarify, and provide greater certainty to employers as to when, how, and what injuries or accidents must be reported.  

Specifically, section 63(1) of the Act now requires employers to notify the OHS Director no later than 24 hours after a workplace fire, flood, or accident causes unconsciousness, fracture to major parts of the body, amputations, third degree burns, loss of sight, asphyxiation or poisoning, any injury that requires admission to hospital, or any injury that endangers an employee’s life, unless the injury can be treated by immediate first aid and the person can return to work the following day.

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Barteaux Durnford Employment and Labour Lawyers work with employers to help them understand and exercise their responsibilities under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations. We advise employers on creating workplace policies and programs to ensure the health and safety of people at or near the workplace.