Penalty for OH&S violations not harsh enough

By Joan Wark
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Nova Scotia Federation of Labour President Danny Cavanagh says the four-month jail sentence handed out last week to contractor Joseph Isnor for violations of the NS Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) Act was a slap on the wrist. Isnor now has 10 convictions under the act. Nine of them were for failing to ensure his employees were using proper fall protection while working for his company, United Roofing Inc.

Cavanagh says he believes it’s time for the courts to start handing out harsher sentences to people who continually violate the OH&S Act. Although this may be one of the longest jail sentences of its kind in Canada, it is only the third charge in the country where someone went to jail and this case involves an individual that has now been sent to jail twice. The fact that we have now have special prosecutor for workplace accidents has helped.

“We have been working hard looking at ways we can change the culture of having safe workplaces and in cases like this, those who continue to violate the Occupational Health and Safety Act must be given harsher penalties. Mr. Isnor has 10 convictions under the OH&S Act. He had just finished serving 15 days in jail and three months later he was charged again.

“If someone had 10 convictions for driving while impaired, I am sure the court would deal with that in a more serious manner,” says Cavanagh.

Cavanagh says that since the Westray Mine disaster in 1992, 648 workers were killed on the job. We all need to work together to change that and it means the courts must get tougher and more charges need to be laid.

“We sincerely hope that this sentence of four months for Mr. Isnor shows that when you refuse to comply with your requirements under the Act that the consequences are going to become more and more harsh until the message gets through.” says Cavanagh.

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