More people die in Canada every year from work related accidents and illnesses than as a result of murder. More work days are lost to work accidents and illnesses than to strikes and lockouts. Yet the illegalities committed in the field of health and safety in the workplace are, for all intents and purposes, left unnoticed by the criminal justice system.
This article addresses the use of penal and criminal law in Quebec against employers who have violated health and safety legislation and the Criminal Code.
The first part examines the historical, political and social reasons why deaths and injuries in the work place are perceived as normal and inevitable, rather than as aberra -tions often of a criminal nature.
The second part examines the application of statutory legislation in Quebec, particularly the Act Respecting Occupational Health and Safety (R.S.Q. c. S-2.1). The nature of the offences therein provided for is studied, as well as the attitude of the judiciary and the Quebec Health and Safety Commission (C.S.S.T.) towards their application.
In the final section the relevant provisions of the Criminal Code are studied, in the light of the rare examples from case law where criminal negligence charges have been laid.
The article concludes with the assertion that a change of attitude both on the part of the state and on the part of public opinion is necessary if we wish that health and safety in the workplace be taken seriously by employers.
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