Much of what we hear from the auditor general we expect to relate to finances. We can’t put a value on advice delivered by Jacques Lapointe on Wednesday, since it has to do with staying alive and well on the job.
What Nova Scotia’s auditor had to say in his report is what many fear, and what many workers in this province have tried to relay themselves: that safety on the job isn’t adequately enforced.
With yet another death in past weeks – a young man on a construction site in the Halifax area – the topic is fresh on people’s minds.
The auditor’s office found that the majority of time when workplaces failed to comply in time with safety orders, the followup by Labour Department inspectors wasn’t there. Of 1,228 cases between April 1, 2012, and March 31, 2013, a mere 10 summary offence tickets were issued.
Also, only 27 of 100 workplaces with the worst safety records were targeted for inspection in that period.
Most employers, presented with an inspection report showing failures in safety, will want to make improvements. When they fail to, however, there must be substantial, punitive measures. When breaches start costing money, business starts paying attention.
In response to the auditor’s report, Labour Minister Kelly Regan acknowledged her department would have to get tougher in enforcing the rules.
Inspections have to come regularly, they have to be random to catch the workplace in everyday mode.
We return to this dilemma again and again, details that should be common sense.
When it comes to any well-oiled machine, regularly scheduled maintenance saves in the long run. Similarly, from a management perspective, it doesn’t take a genius to know that cutting corners is a delusional way of saving time or money. Establishing safe work practices and enforcing them every day saves in the long run, both money and lives.
A primary task of the Labour Department is to see that those prone to taking short cuts are forced onto the right path.