Module 5 - Internal Health and Safety Issues.docx

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14 Apr 2012
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Module 5: Internal Health and Safety Issues
Related Issues of Employee Rights
Case Study Westray Coal Mine Disaster (Nova Scotia, 1992)
26 people died
Subsequent Inquiry into the Disaster
o Complete breakdown of al reasonable health and safety measures
o Such a recent occurrence
o Complicity of everyone in what went on
Management had many problems
o Focus on maximizing profits
o Mine needs to be continuously active
o Mandated long shifts
o Overall project focus was to get as much out of the mine within a certain period of
time
o Willing to take risks with the health and safety of their workers
o Insensitive to workers complaints about health and safety
o Threatened people with losing their jobs for complaining
o Most of the management had no certification of training in min safety
Workers were the least to blame in this case
o Acquiescent (docile) workforce
o Raised some concerns
o Proposed some alternatives
o Docile because they needed the work and jobs were hard to find in metro-politan
centers such as in Nova Scotia
Role of the Regulators of the Nova Scotia Civil Service
o Each of the government ministries involved in the regulation of mines bent to the
will of management during inspections
Ministry of Labour
Department of Health
Inspections of standards were spotty
When they did occur, civil servants seemed to be uniquely susceptible to
managements interpretation of the issue
o Tend to see more of this is poorer and more remote areas due to lack of
government resources
Findings
o Even though adequate standard were enforced, there was a compliance problem
Results
o An explosion which could easily have been prevented
More ventilation: bring in air from the outside
Stone dusting shoot additional particles into the air that render the
methane inert so that it doesn’t blow up
o Two of the senior management faced with charges of manslaughter and
negligence causing bodily harm
Although the charges were subsequently stayed (which means the
prosecution did not follow through with the charges)
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o Familial lawsuits are filed
o Westray goes bankrupt paying legal fees.
Extreme example and rarely encountered
Important to see the degree of complicity and just how recent it is
It is a grave mistake to believe in the notion that because education is better and because
we are a more sophisticate society, that issues like these are not important
Health and Safety Law - Constitutions, Statutes, and Common Law
Most provinces in Canada have Health and Safety Act, which attempts to enforce compliance
on employers to ensure the minimal amount of safety in the workplace.
Constitution
o Most fundamental law
o A rule for making rules
o British North American Act (Amended in 1982)
Details procedures by which further rules can be made
Further rules are statutes
o The Ground Work
Statutes
o A particular piece of legislation that sets out certain requirement in detailed form
o Explicit law designed to regulate something
Taz Code of Canada
Ontario’s Health and Safety Act
Motor Vehicle Act
o The vast majority of things that we know as law are statutes
o It’s in between a constitution and common law
Health and safety act is a statute
o Mostly actions
Common Law
o A set of court precedents which reflect custom in of the country in question
o Additional law as that aren’t explicitly drafted in a piece of legislation
o Rights which are not written into any codified piece of legislation
Even if you don’t have a right in the constitution or a right specified by a
statue, you may still have a right in the common law
o Rich sources for protecting and expanding peoples’ freedom
Rights and Duties of Employer/Owner of a Company
Both employers and employees have a set of rights and duties that they are both entitled
to and responsible to fulfill.
Rights
o Right to seek a profit (not to get profit)
o Right to control of direct the company within the law
o Right to expect your employees to take all reasonable measures to comply with
health and safety regulations
o Entitled to fire people with just cause
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