Big Changes to Nova Scotia Occupational Health and Safety Rules – What They Mean to Your Business

December 4, 2014

The Nova Scotia Occupational Health and Safety regime is undergoing a complete overhaul, with potential huge impacts for employers respecting cost of compliance and risk of liability.  The changes are part of the five-year Workplace Safety Strategy, a joint initiative between the Department of Labour and Advanced Education and the Workers’ Compensation Board.  The Strategy was developed in direct response to a recognition that the old system—a piecemeal assortment of rules and regulations—was tough to navigate and produced inconsistency in interpretation and enforcement.

The myriad of regulations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act are being gradually consolidated into the all-embracing Workplace Health and Safety Regulations.  At the same time, significant amendments are being made.  A table summarizing the status of these amendments appears below.

The first phase of amendments came into effect this Fall.  Administrative penalties were a major focus.  Noteworthy changes included a shift in:

    1. Who decides whether a penalty should be issued (now the OHS Officer, rather than someone who did not personally attend the workplace).
    2. Guidelines for determining when to issue a penalty.
    3. Modified Guidelines for penalty amounts.
    4. Extended appeal periods.
    5. A streamlined appeal process.
    6. The power to direct the collected funds to workplace safety initiatives.

The second phase of changes are presently in draft form, with public comment open until February 27, 2015.  The draft amendments propose big changes to a number of industry-specific regulations, but also introduce important amendments of general application.  Of particular importance is the section on Occupational Health, which is a fresh addition to the new Regulations.  It addresses environmental hazards such as air quality, temperature, vibration, chemical exposure, and sound exposure.  Notably, it requires a hearing surveillance and conservation program for noisy workplaces.

In addition, Phase II offers some guidance—but also introduces heavy burdens—to Health and Safety Committees and Representatives.  For example, Committees must have specific rules of procedure, and all members will be required to undergo at least 21 hours of training within 90 days of being appointed to the Committee.  This training must be performed by a qualified instructor.

Amendments have already been made that affect every workplace, and more are on the horizon.  In light of these sweeping changes, reliance on outdated advice and policies will almost certainly put employers at risk of penalty or prosecution.


Workplace Health and Safety Regulations
The following table sets out the present status of the consolidation and amendments to the Workplace Health and Safety Regulations.


Topic Old New Status
Occupational Health *new Part 2 Yes
Phase 2
WHMIS WHMIS Regulations Part 3 No
First Aid Occupational Health and Safety First Aid Regulations Part 4 Phase 2
Sanitation and Accomodation Part 4 Part 5 Phase 2
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Part 3 Part 6 Phase 2
Handling and Storage of Materials Part 5 Part 7 No
Tools Part 9 Part 8 No
Mechanical Safety and Robotics Part 8 Part 9 No
Cranes, Hoists and Mobile Equipment Part 7 Part 10 No
Lock-out Part 6 Part 11 No
Premises and Building Safety Part 13 Part 12 No
Construction and Demolition Part 13 Part 13 No
Excavations and Trenches Part 14 Part 14 Phase 2
Electrical Safety Part 11 Part 15 No
Welding, Cutting, Burning and Soldering Part 10 Part 16 No
Equipment for Firefighters Part 16 Part 17 No
Blasting Safety Blasting Safety Regulations Part 18 Phase 2
Confined Spaces Part 12 Part 19 Phase 2
Surface Mine Workings Part 15 Part 20 Phase 2
Fall Protection Fall Protection and Scaffolding Regulations Part 21 Yes
Work Requiring Rope Access *new Part 22 Yes
Scaffolds and Other Elevated Work-platforms Fall Protection and Scaffolding Regulations Part 23 Yes
Temporary Workplaces on Highways *new Part 24 Yes
Occupational Diving Occupational Diving Regulations Part 25 Phase 2
Violence in the Workplace Violence in the Workplace Regulations Part 26 No
Health and Safety Committees and Representatives *new Part 27 Phase 2
Not Allocated Part 28
Not Allocated Part 29
Reviews and Appeals Occupational Health and Safety Appeal Panel Regulations Part 30 Yes
Administrative Penalties Occupational Health and Safety Administrative Penalties Regulations Part 31 Yes

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