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Remembering Westray

9th May 2022

30 years ago today the Westray Coal Mine in Plymouth Nova Scotia exploded.  May 9th  1991 all 26 miners in the mine at the time lost their lives when a coal-cutting machine sparked igniting a combination of methane and dust.  It was determined the mine was not being operated in a safe manner.

In March of 2004 Bill C-45 became law, Section 217.1 of the Criminal Code in Canada was added to state:

“Every one who undertakes, or has the authority, to direct how another person does work or performs a task is under a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to that person, or any other person, arising from that work or task.”

On the surface this addition to the criminal code would appear to give organizations a powerful additional obligation to ensure a safe workplace.

In reality, very few charges have successfully resulted in prosecutions for organizations under 217.1.  however there have been over 60 charges laid, and the damage to reputation, morale, and productivity can be significant regardless of prosecution results.

It is critical for all workplaces to identify known and foreseeable hazards in the workplace, and to communicate these hazards to the workforce.  These hazards must be eliminated, or risk reduced to as far as is reasonably practicable.

More importantly, you don’t ever want to look a someone in the eyes and tell them their loved one isn’t coming home from work.  Last year 161 workers in B.C. lost their lives at work.  Consider how your workplace is effectively identifying and managing your risk.

Carbon Safety provides a short lunch and learn, and longer 2 hour awareness session on the importance of effective hazard and risk management in managing workplace safety, and how it relates to due diligence.

If you’re interested in learning more about effective hazard and risk management within the workplace, reach out to Carbon Safety Solutions at: info@carbonsafety.ca or on 250 714 0222

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