Provinces and Police Join Forces for Workplace Safety
The Westray Memorandum of Understanding outlines protocols for the investigation of series workplace incidents, and it is an important document that has been signed by the Alberta government and 10 police services in the province.
What is the purpose of the memorandum? It is designed to assist investigators in determining if criminal charges are warranted in a serious workplace incident, in addition to standard Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) violations.
According to Christina Gray, Minster of Labour, criminal charges serve as another degree of enforcement to ensure compliance with health and safety laws in the workplace. Prior to the signing, OHS and police officers worked in tandem to conduct investigations into serious workplace incidents, but the Westray Memorandum of Understanding serves as a formal set of protocols for both groups to assess each situation and act accordingly.
The Westray Memorandum of Understanding is named for a large explosion at the Westray Mine in Plymouth, N.S on May 9, 1992. Twenty-six miners were killed in the incident, which launched a public inquiry that held mine management and government culpable for a preventable disaster.
Following the inquiry, the Canadian government made an amendment to the Criminal Code that allowed criminal charges to be made in serious workplace incidents that involved fatalities or injuries—a law that applies to any individual on a work site who directs the work of employees.
The amendments took effect in 2004, resulting in 11 prosecutions in Canada. Three convictions were made in these incidences, with one individual being incarcerated. To date, there have been no prosecutions in Alberta.
The announcement of the Westray Memorandum of Understanding was made on April 28, 2017, the National Day of Mourning to remember workers who have been injured, killed or suffered illness due to workplace-related hazards.
The Government of Alberta and police partners made the announcement on the National Day of Mourning, which commemorates workers who have been killed, injured or suffered illness due to workplace-related hazards and incidents.
Partnering Police Services include:
- RCMP K Division
- Medicine Hat
- Tsuu T’ina
- Lakeshore Regional (Slave Lake area)