After six months of advocacy – working in tandem with the Nova Scotia Office of the Employer Advisor (NSOEA) and other industry stakeholders – RCC successfully convinced the Nova Scotia Department of Labour to halt the pending introduction of amendments to the Workplace Health and Safety Regulations under the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act. The proposed amendments were completely impractical and in many cases unenforceable. The proposed amendment drew the ire of employers and unions in both the private and public sector.

RCC focused its opposition on the proposed amendments which would have unnecessarily increased the training hours for members of Joint Occupational Health and Safety (JOHS) Committees; and lowered the acceptable threshold limits for hearing and respiratory exposure to levels that are not seen in the majority of Canadian provinces. Some of these proposed amendments would have subjected retailers to significant new costs and administrative red tape while not achieving a safer and healthier workplace.

What RCC Did/Next Steps:

RCC met with Nova Scotia’s Minister of Labour on December 17, 2014 to express its opposition both to the proposed amendments and the lack of government consultation. RCC supported the Nova Scotia Office of the Employer Advisor in its letter to the Minister opposing the proposed changes and joined the NSOEA in meeting with officials from the Department of Labour to discuss the reasons for our opposition.

On February 5, 2015, RCC, the NSOEA and other business stakeholders met with the new Deputy and Associate Deputy Ministers of Labour. During this meeting, the Deputy Minister stated that the government had been presumptuous in introducing its proposed regulation changes. The Deputy admitted that much of the government’s proposal was flawed and unworkable and thus, the Minister would be halting the process immediately.

The Deputy stated that the Minister is under no timeline to implement OHS Act changes. Therefore, the government will take the time necessary to properly review the proposed regulation changes, engage in proper consultation with stakeholders and come up with workable regulations.

The NSOEA has called on the government to break apart the numerous proposed regulations into manageable pieces that can be analyzed and understood. The NSOEA will work with employers (including RCC) to be proactive in submitting proposals to the Department of Labour on ways to improve health and safety in the Nova Scotia workforce. Employers continue to offer policy writers at the Department of Labour the opportunity to tour actual worksites to understand why so many of the Department’s proposed policies are so impractical on an actual worksite.

Background:

RCC Members were concerned that the proposed regulation’s threshold limits for hearing and respiratory exposure were so low that regular noises within a retail establishment could result in an entire staff of retail employees having to have their hearing and breathing frequently tested. Government would not definitively state the type of testing that would have been required, however any such change would have resulted in increased administrative and financial burden for retailers. For larger retailers, this could have resulted in having to keep an audiologist/audio logical technician or a respiratory therapist/respiratory technician on retainer in order to deal with the extensive amount of testing that would have had to occur.

All employers were opposed to the proposed changes to JOHS Committees. Part 27 of the proposed training requirements stated that Committee members would need 21 hours of training and Representatives would need 7 hours of training within 90 days of accepting their JOHS positions. There would have been requirements for recertification after 5 years even though this committee would have been active throughout the five year period. RCC and the NSOEA argued that these proposed training requirements for the JOHS Committee were too lengthy given the responsibilities of the committee. The training would have been administratively burdensome as it could have resulted in an employee receiving a greater amount of training to sit on this committee than for any other purpose, including job training.

RCC and the NSOEA also opposed the prescriptive nature that the government chose for the required JOHS training hours. Some businesses argued that they could conduct the training programs in a manner that would not only be faster but more comprehensive than the prescriptive, program that stated the need for 21 hours of training. RCC also opposed the proposed requirement for JOHS committee meetings to be held in a separate, private room as this would have been extremely difficult for some small businesses to achieve.

RCC noted that the extra training burden would likely drive people away from participating in the JOHS Committee. The result would likely have been smaller committees with a lesser cross-section of employees participating. This would have created a lack of interest in the JOHS committee.

RCC also had serious concerns related to proposed amendments dealing with the purchasing of unnecessary pieces of first aid equipment and the requirement for employers to purchase non-slip footwear for employees.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Jim Cormier, Director (Atlantic) at:  [email protected] or 902-422-4144