The province is hiring more safety inspectors and working with industry to ensure officers are getting to more high-risk workplaces.
The Nova Scotia Construction Safety Association will partner with the province to help identify and target companies with poor safety records. The province is also hiring five new safety officers to help with more targeted inspections.
These changes, and several others, are being made as part of the province's workplace safety strategy and align with the auditor general's recommendations to improve the province's health and safety services.
"Inspections are just one piece of the safety equation," said Labour and Advanced Education Minister Kelly Regan. "For real change to happen, we need more employers to step up along with us and help protect workers across Nova Scotia.
"There are many employers already leading the way on safety. We will target those that are not making safety the priority it needs to be."
Nova Scotians identified more inspections and enforcement as one of six priorities in the province's workplace safety strategy.
The province agrees that compliance and follow-up are critical. While the department follows up on every compliance order, changes will be made to improve how actions are documented. As well, the department will ensure businesses show evidence of compliance for violations that pose significant health and safety risks.
The province also agrees that orders must be acted upon in a timely fashion. The department will act to ensure time frames for response are more consistent and review its policy around extensions for complying to orders to ensure approvals are obtained and documented before an extension is granted.
The province has steadily increased the number of inspections performed over the past several years. Last year, safety officers conducted nearly 2,500 inspections, the highest number to date.
Many high-risk industries are already working closely with the province to promote safer workplaces.
"Every day, I see many construction companies that are doing things right, and this will help us focus on the ones that are not," said Nova Scotia Construction Safety Association's general manager Bruce Collins. "This is a perfect opportunity for government and industry to lead together, and build on what we're already doing to make workplaces safer through education and training."
The auditor general's report confirms the department has been moving in the right direction since its last review in 2001. Some of the recommendations include:
-- setting targets for safety officers to ensure they focus their efforts on higher-risk industries
-- evaluating inspection results
-- developing checklists for inspections
"Thousands of Nova Scotians provided input to help shape the Workplace Safety Strategy, and now we have valuable perspective from the auditor general," said Ms. Regan. "Implementing these recommendations will take some time, but we want to assure Nova Scotians we take his advice very seriously."