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Westray Lessons Still Not Learned in Nova Scotia: Steelworkers’ Director Marty Warren

TORONTO – United Steelworkers (USW) Ontario/Atlantic Director Marty Warren said Wednesday’s CBC story on the non-reporting of workplace fatalities in Nova Scotia brings back memories of May 1992 and the Westray Mine disaster. 

“In the subsequent inquiry, the Department of Labour and its incompetent inspections were part of the reason Justice Peter Richard called for changes to the Criminal Code of Canada,” said Warren.

“The lessons of Westray are lost when the province’s executive director of occupational health and safety can say with a straight fact that there is little value in informing the public of workplace fatalities. This is a shocking attitude and does nothing toward preventing the potential of dying on the job,” Warren added.

“No one, especially family members, should have to resort to filing a freedom-of-information request to find out the details of a loved one’s death.”

Warren said enforcing the 2004 Criminal Code amendments, known as the Westray Law, has been a preoccupation of the union over the last several years, including developing protocols for making sure that the scene of a workplace fatality is fully investigated by police for possible criminality. The union also calls for greater co-ordination among regulators, police and Crown attorneys.

“This cannot happen in an information vacuum,” he said, adding that Nova Scotia has made some progress in terms of training and appointing a special prosecutor dedicated to workplace fatalities and safety investigation.

“This recent report is a disturbing indication that we have a long way to go to create a culture of workplace safety in Nova Scotia.”

Warren added that the CBC story brought to mind the words of Westray Inquiry Commissioner Peter Richard: “The Westray story is a complex mosaic of actions, omissions, mistakes, incompetence, apathy, cynicism, stupidity and neglect.”

For more information on the USW campaign to “Stop the Killing, Enforce the Law,” go to www.stopthekilling.ca.

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For further information:

Marty Warren, USW Ontario/Atlantic Director, 416-243-8792
Sylvia Boyce, USW Ontario/Atlantic Health and Safety Co-ordinator, 905-741-9830, sboyce@usw.ca
Lawrence McKay, USW Atlantic Area Co-ordinator, 506-232-8472, mckay@usw.ca
Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, 416-434-2221, bgallagher@usw.ca

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