The province is implementing a monetary penalty system for employers and employees who break occupational health and safety laws in a move to improve workplace safety. Beginning in January, the Department of Labour and Workforce Development’s occupational health and safety division will have the ability to issue penalties when violations of health and safety laws are found in workplaces. “We take the health and safety of our workers very seriously in this province,” said Labour and Workforce Development Minister Marilyn More. “Safety in the workplace is a shared responsibility, and this initiative will work to increase compliance and better protect workforce participants in the province.” Currently, monetary penalties for employers or employees who break occupational health and safety laws are assigned by the courts. Compliance is achieved through education, promotion, enforcement and prosecution. The new system will be an additional form of deterrence. Although workplace injuries continue to decline, in 2008 there were 29 workplace fatalities and 8,000 incidents where employees were not able to go to work the next day. “If this new system saves one life, or prevents one injury, then we are one step closer to being a province that has no workplace accidents or fatalities, and that is where we strive to be,”said Ms. More. The Occupational Health and Safety division issues about 4,000 occupational health and safety orders each year. Orders are issued when violations are found in the workplace. “Workplace injuries have serious impacts on far too many Nova Scotians and their families. Both workers and employers need to be aware, and they need to take action on injury prevention,” said Chris Power, acting chair of the Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia. “This is an important initiative and it can only create awareness and lead to safer workplaces, which is a goal shared by all of us.” Employers, supervisors and employees subject to the penalty can be appealed to the Occupational Health and Safety Appeal Panel. Penalties imposed on employers and supervisors will be larger than those imposed on employees and the penalty will increase if it is a repeat offence. Other Canadian jurisdictions such as British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick and the Yukon have penalty systems in place.