'Immediate and decisive action' needed to solve issues raised in workplace investigations audit

Labour groups calls on government to guarantee every worker returns home safe at the end of the day; political parties also want solution to audit's 'severely damning'

'Immediate and decisive action' needed to solve issues raised in workplace investigations audit

Labour leaders and opposition parties are calling on the Newfoundland and Labrador government to take necessary actions to address the issues raised in an audit of the province’s response to serious workplace accidents.

The findings of the audit are “severely damning,” said Pleaman Forsey, Exploits MHA and the Progressive Conservative critic responsible for Workplace N.L., according to a CBC report, and he wants the provincial government to take "immediate and decisive action" in response to the audit.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) department is failing to even complete its investigations on a lot of serious workplace accidents in the province, according to the 2022 audit. It found that at least one-quarter of investigations surveyed by the audit weren't finished before that two-year deadline elapsed, "thereby precluding the option for prosecution,” reported CBC, citing the audit that looked into cases filed over a nearly four-year period ending in 2020.

"Every day that passes without meaningful action is another day when workers are placed at risk," said Jessica McCormick, Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour president, in the CBC report.

"It's time for our government to step up and take health and safety seriously to guarantee every worker returns home safe at the end of the day."

Fixing the problems is ‘not a priority for the Liberal government’

The Department of Digital Government and Service N.L., which oversees occupational health and safety investigations, accepted all of the audit's 11 recommendations and some changes have been made, according to the CBC report. The department has created a spreadsheet to track the progress of investigations and has more scheduled meetings to review the status of ongoing investigations.

It has also finalized standard operating procedures that are now being used by OHS officers.

However, most of the recommendations are yet to be implemented, and officials did not provide any timeline for when that will happen.

That’s not good enough, said Newfoundland and Labrador New Democratic Party (NL NDP) MHA Jordan Brown.

"Government's refusal to ensure that resources and expertise are in place to investigate workplace injuries and deaths shows a callous indifference that should make all workers concerned," said Brown in the CBC report.

"Everyone deserves to work safely and come home to their families at the end of the day. Key to that is investigating workplace injuries and deaths in a timely manner so that issues are identified and addressed. That's not a priority for the Liberal government."

McCormick said that there should be “clear timelines and a clear direction from the provincial government on when they're going to make the changes” recommended by the audit.

And the action to solve the problem should come from the top, said McCormick.

"The blame for this issue should never be placed at the feet of the people who work in the OHS division," she said.