Novel Approaches to Sentencing in Occupational Health and Safety Convictions

The Nova Scotia Provincial Court is taking new approaches to dealing with occupational health and safety violations. Recently, it sentenced a company found guilty of breaching Occupational Health and Safety laws to complete community service hours.

The sentence was delivered pursuant to Section 75 of Nova Scotia’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, which allows the court to order any number of creative conditions which serve the purpose of “securing the offender’s good conduct and…preventing the offender from repeating the same offence”.

The company’s conviction came after an experienced employee was fatally electrocuted. In determining culpability, the Court found that the company failed to institute workplace safety policies and failed to ensure compliance with the Canadian Electrical Code. The company was sentenced to a $35,000 fine, plus a creative sentencing condition – community service. The company was given 18 months to complete 150 hours of presentations on the facts of the instant fatal accident, the workplace safety issues at play and the relevant regulatory requirements.

This is not the first time the Court has imposed creative sentences under Section 75 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Other creative sentences doled out by the Court include an order to make charitable donations, volunteering on a Habitat for Humanity build, monetary contributions towards educational programs, and the implementation of public information campaigns and conferences.

In industries where the health and welfare of workers is at stake, creative sentencing options with an educational component can be particularly effective at achieving deterrence because publicizing the tragic facts can send a persuasive messages to others in the industry.

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