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Health and Safety: Higher Fines in 2011 (Source: La Presse Canadienne)

The time when employers got off with paltry fines for having put the health and safety of their employees in danger is over.

The new fines imposed by the Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail du Québec (CSST) will come into effect on January 1, 2011, and they are not to be taken lightly.

The sanctions, which have not been changed since 1979, were first doubled last July, and will now be tripled starting on Saturday. Repeat offenders will pay even more.

Fines imposed on a company for a first major offence, which were from $5000 to $20,000, will now be between $15,000 and $60,000. Starting with the second offense, the fine will be in the range of $60,000 to $300,000. These fines, which had been unchanged for 30 years, will now be indexed annually.

The CSST feels that this will be a major incentive to improve health and safety practices in the workplace.

The agency feels that efforts to raise awareness over the years have had results, as witnessed by a 33 percent drop in work-related accidents over the past 10 years.

The Commission feels that employers are also more aware of the economic benefits of investing in health and safety, an approach that decreases absenteeism and improves productivity. The CSST believes that this approach will become increasingly popular with the aging of the population and the resulting scarcity of labour.

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