Union calls for more safety tools, including Tasers, for vehicle compliance officers

·2 min read

The union representing 70 vehicle compliance officers in Nova Scotia says more safety equipment should be given to them, including arming them with Tasers and pepper spray.

"We've had three assaults since 2019 on vehicle compliance officers," said Jason MacLean, president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union. "They don't seem to get the same respect as a police officer when they pull someone over."

The job of the officers is to make sure commercial vehicles are carrying the permitted weight and are mechanically safe to operate on the roads.

Last July, near the weigh scales on Highway 104 near Amherst, a vehicle compliance officer was choked by a truck driver. Staff at the scale house intervened and were able to detain the assailant until RCMP arrived. A 50-year-old man from East Amherst was charged with assault.

"That was the straw that broke the camel's back," said MacLean.

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That incident has also sparked a provincial review.

Nova Scotia's Department of Labour has issued a compliance order instructing the Department of Transportation to engage a subject-matter expert to review the most recent violence in the workplace assessment.

The order was received in mid-December, with a compliance date of Feb. 5.

A transportation spokesperson said the department is actively working on meeting the order.

Eric Wooliscroft/CBC
Eric Wooliscroft/CBC

The protective equipment for vehicle compliance inspectors currently includes a ballistic vest, a two-way radio and safety boots.

"That order, we believe, will put the right equipment in place for them," said MacLean, a former corrections officer. "We're anxious to see this subject-matter expert come in and do their assessment and write the order as to what equipment officers need in order to do their jobs."

MacLean said vehicle compliance officers should be equipped with Tasers and pepper spray.

He hopes the compliance order will force the government to supply those officers with those tools. He said most compliance officers work by themselves.