Government Fails to Hold Employers Accountable for Workplace Injuries and Fatalities

June 4, 2024

The Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour (NLFL) is calling for immediate action from the provincial government to address significant shortfalls in serious incident investigations by the Occupational Health and Safety Division of the Department of Digital Government and Service N.L. A lack of resources and improvements to the system resulted in 1 in 4 serious incident investigations that were not completed within the two-year statutory deadline, according to a 2022 audit. These systemic failures have allowed employers to avoid accountability for workplace accidents and serious injuries.

“Without appropriate investigations, injured workers and their families are left wondering how a workplace accident could happen and are provided with no assurances that employers are taking appropriate action to ensure it does not occur again,” said Jessica McCormick, President of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour. “To learn that some employers avoided accountability simply because of procedural failures is shameful.”

Workplace investigations are an important tool to deter employers from neglecting their health and safety obligations. For years, the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour has called for stronger enforcement of health and safety laws and greater transparency to ensure employers and law makers are held to account.

“In the face of such a scathing report, our government has chosen to ignore recommendations to address the under-resourcing of the OHS Division and has instead restructured positions within the existing budget,” said McCormick. “Given the 2022 audit emphasized OHS Officer workloads as a contributing factor to the delays and missed timelines, we fail to see how restructuring will address the issues.”

The NLFL continues to call on government to:

  • Implement effective prevention strategies, strong laws and to ensure those laws are enforced.
  • Commit to transparency in health and safety records. The health and safety records of NL employers are kept out of the public eye. Yet, Ontario’s “Safety Check”, for example, allows the public to check the safety records of businesses.
  • Enforce the Westray Act to hold employers criminally accountable in the death or serious injury of workers due to negligence.
  • Establish an Occupational Health Clinic to help both employers and workers manage, prevent, and respond to occupational illnesses.

“Every day that passes without meaningful action is another day when workers are placed at risk,” said McCormick. “It’s time for our government to step up and take health and safety seriously to guarantee every worker returns home safe at the end of the day.”

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