A judge has ordered a prosecutor to provide
"particulars" of a vague charge under the Nova Scotia
Occupational Health and Safety Act, so the constructor
could understand the charge against it.
The constructor was charged with four OHSA offences following an
accident in which an employee was severely injured on a
construction site after he activated power to a swing stage
(suspended platform) and a metal outrigger fell on him. The
constructor argued that two of the four charges were vague, so that
it needed more particulars (details) of those charges in order to
defend against them.
The judge referred to the two charges as "general
duty" offenses. The first charge alleged that the constructor
had failed to "take every reasonable precaution to ensure the
health and safety of a person at a workplace". The second
charge alleged that the constructor failed "to ensure
communication between employers and self-employed persons at a
project of information necessary to the health and safety of
persons at the project." The judge noted that the charges
"track[ed] the language of the legislation".
The judge concluded that the constructor did not risk
"being broad-sided by an infinite range of allegations"
on the first charge. The disclosure from the prosecutor indicated
that the prosecution would assert that the constructor should not
have disassembled the swing stage in the first place, and that
having done so, the constructor should have taken precautions to
ensure that no employee was hurt as a result. As such, the
constructor knew what the charge was about, and was not entitled to
particulars of the first charge.
With respect to the second charge, the judge decided that the
disclosure did not provide a "specific enough characterization
of the communications that the prosecutor is alleging" the
constructor was responsible for making. Particulars would clarify
to whom the prosecutor says the constructor should have
communicated and how and what it should have communicated. As such,
the prosecutor was ordered to provide particulars for the second
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