WESTRAY RESPONSE COMMITTEE--Response to Westray Inquiry Report ----------------------------------------------------------------- The province has accepted and will act on all 74 recommendations of the Westray Mine Public Inquiry report, Transportation and Public Works Minister Don Downe announced today. Mr. Downe, chairman of cabinet's Westray Response Committee, was in Stellarton today to release government's response to the report. "We will make sure that the changes on paper translate to changes in action," said the minister. "This government will do whatever it takes to make our province a safer place to earn a living and raise a family. We pledge to do our best so this type of tragedy doesn't happen again. People should never have to choose between a paycheque and their lives." Highlights of government's response include: - An independent panel will review the province's Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Division for competency, training, motivation, management and independence. This review will be lead by Ian Plummer, who provided advice to the Westray inquiry on mining and safety matters. A similar review will take place in the Department of Natural Resources. - The Department of Natural Resources will no longer be both a regulator and promoter of mines. Responsibility for mine safety will rest clearly with the Department of Labour, using outside expertise whenever required. No mine permits will be issued until the mine is evaluated for safety. - Government is actively pursuing an agreement with the federal government on the sharing of inspection services for all workplaces, including mine sites. Discussions are slated for January. - The province has asked the federal government to look into Criminal Code changes making corporate officials more accountable for safety. The province will examine existing health and safety rules on corporate accountability to see if they need to be stronger. -Government will develop clear guidelines for ministerial responsibility. There will be job descriptions and annual performance reviews for all deputy ministers. -Changes will be made to proposed regulations on underground mining, and the OHS Act will be reviewed for amendments. The OHS Advisory Council, organized labour and management will be consulted. Government has also taken action on a number of issues beyond the 74 recommendations of the Westray report. Labour Minister Gerald O'Malley released draft regulations to strengthen the role of health and safety committees in the workplace. Committees provide leadership on health and safety issues and are required in all workplaces with 20 or more employees. The draft rules are now available for public comment. This is the first time for such a regulation in Nova Scotia. A cleanup of the Westray mine site was also announced today by Natural Resources Minister Ken MacAskill. The silos will be dismantled, the portals will be secured, grass will be planted, and other safety and environmental concerns will be looked after. The province is now in discussion with the federal government to resolve all other issues related to the mine site. The province will work to ensure that any future proceeds from the sale of assets are directed to miners who have not received severance from Curragh and to the municipality for lost taxes. Government has also taken action on the issue of staffing. Inspectors Albert McLean and Claude White, currently on leave, will not return to work with the Government of Nova Scotia. Current employees of Natural Resources referenced in the Westray report have been suspended pending a independent review of concerns raised by the inquiry. "The entire system of the day failed the miners, their families and all Nova Scotians on May 9, 1992," said Mr. Downe. "On behalf of the province, I apologize for any role government may have played. We are deeply sorry for the Westray disaster. It never should have happened. While we can't change the past, we can change the future." Members of the cabinet committee met with the Westray families group and representatives of organized labour during the process of developing government's response. The minister committed to regular updates on progress. "The Westray report will not be put on the shelf," Mr. Downe said. "It will remain on top of the agenda until all the issues are addressed. We owe it to the miners, the families and all Nova Scotians." -30- Contact: Jennifer MacIsaac Westray Response Committee 902-424-3219 or 902-456-3334 E-mail: macisaja@gov.ns.ca David Harrigan Communications Nova Scotia 902-424-2912 or 902-471-0225 E-mail: harrigda@gov.ns.ca NOTE TO EDITORS: Copies of government's response, titled Westray - A Plan of Action, are available at Communications Nova Scotia, 902-424-4492, and the Government Bookstore, 902-424-7580 or 1-800-526-6575. Both are located at One Government Place, Granville Level, 1700 Granville St., Halifax. ngr Dec. 18, 1997 10:00 a.m.