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Editor's Note

Editor's Note: Whose fine?

October 26, 2013

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The article featured on the cover of this month’s issue of Safety+Health was prompted by a story the staff has been following for years.

Back in 2010, the Canadian province of Nova Scotia announced a penalty system that would allow the government to issue fines to workers and front-line supervisors for safety violations. The move seemed so controversial that I assigned a member of the S+H editorial team to track the story as it progressed.

Our staffer duly followed up with Nova Scotia’s Occupational Safety and Health Division after six months, which is when the province said it would have data on how many penalties had been issued. Not surprisingly, the data wasn’t ready. She called again after a year – nothing. She got in touch with some labor unions in Canada to see if they had any comments or anecdotes, and struck out.

So as happens when potential articles don’t pan out, we put the topic on the shelf and concentrated on other things. And years went by … and the S+H staffer left us for another position. (She’s still our good friend, though.)

But in February of this year, we saw some movement: The Nova Scotia government released a proposed framework for improvements to its penalty system. The discussion paper contained the hard data we had been hoping for.

As soon as I heard about it, I asked Senior Associate Editor Kyle W. Morrison to dust off the old files and re-explore worker fines and whether such a concept could ever fly in the United States.

When competing for space in the magazine, “hard” news – such as upcoming GHS deadlines and movement on OSHA’s silica rule – is always going to win, so Kyle’s article on fining workers sat for a few months. While that happened, another province – Alberta – established a system similar to Nova Scotia’s. Clearly the concept is gaining popularity up north.

Please check out Kyle’s article, and post a comment to let us know what you think.

The opinions expressed in “Editor’s Note” do not necessarily reflect those of the National Safety Council or affiliated local Chapters.

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