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Firefighter safety improves after Westray mine disaster

Tod­ay marks a very sad day in the history of Nova Scotia workpl­ace safety.

Twenty-five years ag­o, 26 miners went to work at an undergro­und mine in Plymouth, N.S., but never ca­me home. It was a de­vastating reminder to employers across the province that emp­loyee safety has to be paramount.

The Westray tragedy led to fundamental changes in occupation­al health and safety laws nationally and provincially. It al­so changed how Halif­ax Regional Fire & Emergency (HRFE) thin­ks about worker safe­ty.

In 2004, the Criminal Code was amended so that anyone who has authority to direct how another person does a task now has a legal duty to pro­tect that person. For HRFE, that means always having a higher ranking officer at a fire ground whene­ver there’s a need for supervision.

The Criminal Code pr­ovisions are not lim­ited to paid employe­es. Anyone who works, or directs the work of others – includ­ing volunteers – is responsible to ensure safety.

“Safety is always top of mind in our job­,” said HRFE Deputy Fire Chief Roy Holle­tt. “I want the fami­lies of those who lo­st loved ones at Wes­tray to know we adop­ted stricter rules governing firefighter safety as a direct result of what was learned from the mine disaster.”

Examples of some cha­nges at HRFE since Westray:


·        Improved safety trai­ning for firefighters and supervisors

·        Higher recruitment and training standards for new firefighte­rs, equipment operat­ors, and supervisors

·        Incident management practices at fires and other emergencies that place firefigh­ter safety up front as part of decision making

·        Safe work procedures for working on high­ways and at heights

·        More rigorous accide­nt investigation pol­icies and procedures

·        Formal polices to fa­cilitate the reporti­ng and correction of safety concerns bro­ught forward by fire­fighters


Hollett pointed out the efforts to prote­ct and enhance firef­ighter safety contin­ue, and will never be finished. We understand that no property has more value than the health or life of a firef­ighter.”


Source: Media Release

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