Occupational Health & Safety Legislation Framework and the Demand for Due Diligence

In the context of criminal law, we have all heard the phrase “innocent until proven guilty”. To the contrary, lay people exposed to occupational health and safety law often opine that once charges are laid, the parties are “guilty until proven innocent”. Such is the case because occupational health and safety legislation is regulatory in nature and engages the concept of strict liability. Upon proof of the impugned act, a strict liability offence will lead to a conviction unless the defendant can prove that he exercised due diligence. More specifically, the court will determine whether the accused took all reasonable steps to avoid the offence or whether the accused reasonably believed in a mistaken set of facts which, if true, would render the act or omission innocent. In short, due diligence is often the only method of avoiding a conviction in a strict liability offence and it is therefore a vital component to answering a charge under occupational health and safety law.

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