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Decade-old Westray mine tragedy marked in Nova Scotia

Halifax, NS -- June 21, 2002 -- Nova Scotia Environment and Labour Minister David Morse has paid tribute to the 26...


Halifax, NS — June 21, 2002 — Nova Scotia Environment and Labour Minister David Morse has paid tribute to the 26 miners who lost their lives in an explosion 10 years ago in the Westray Mine in Plymouth,N.S.

“The legacy left by these miners has been a safer workplace for all Nova Scotians,” Morse said in May. “We must ensure that their memory continues to be an inspiration to remain vigilant in the cause of safety.”

The minister noted that Nova Scotia is a safer place for people to work in 2002 than it was 10 years ago. Over the past decade, the province has undertaken many occupational health and safety initiatives, including increasing the number of inspectors to 27 from 18.

The number of actual inspections has also increased and the number of workplace orders issued has more than tripled. The province’s success rate in health and safety prosecutions also jumped to 83 per cent in 2001 from 44 per cent in 1997.

Nova Scotia has also been successful in reducing the number of accidents, such as workplace falls. During the five years leading to the introduction of the Fall Protection and Scaffolding Regulations in 1996, there were on average 2,060 Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) claims per year. In the four years after the regulations came into effect, the number of WCB claims dropped an average of 20 per cent per year.

The province agreed to accept, and has addressed, all 74 of the recommendations from the 1997 Westray Inquiry Report. One-third of them are now complete. The remaining 46 will be completed with the introduction of new Underground Mining Regulations later in 2002.

“Education is a critical component of health and safety compliance,” said Morse. “I’m especially pleased to see the number of education initiatives that are focused on youth. Through these initiatives, we are instilling safe and healthy work practices in young people before they join the workforce.”

Some of the activities that Environment and Labour are involved in are a high school credit course on occupational health and safety and the creation of a web page dedicated to youth workers.

In addition to provincial initiatives, the Nova Scotia Safety Council offers a one-day training program for youth as part of a Student Workplace Orientation Program.

“We can never do enough to get our youth off to a safe start as they enter the workforce,” said Morse.