Safety in Schools Supports Healing and Incident Prevention Through Creative Sentencing

What is Creative Sentencing?

Creative Sentencing has existed for decades but was largely confined to the environmental field. It was applied in a few OHS cases in Alberta in 2000 but gained momentum around 2014 as solutions were examined to prevent incidents and deaths.

Creative Sentencing is rooted in Restorative Justice, which emphasizes repairing the harm caused by criminal or quasi-criminal offenses rather than simply punishing them. It typically involves addressing causal factors through prevention and awareness activities funded by the offender. Ideally, these projects address a gap in the industry and link the nature of the offence and geographic region.

The Creative Sentencing Process

Creative Sentencing may be considered by a judge when a party is found guilty or pleads guilty to an OHS infraction. The process begins when the Crown Prosecutor and Defence Council bring forward ideas and recommendations for consideration during a hearing. The judge then decides if a Creative Sentence is appropriate and if the proposed ideas are suitable.

How We’re Involved

Out of 87 OHS convictions in Alberta from 2014-2018, 24 included a Creative Sentencing component. Safety in Schools was directly involved in 6 of those projects and is regularly engaged with Alberta OHS Investigators and Industry Associations to elevate and continuously improve the Creative Sentencing process.

Our team has worked directly with several survivors of workplace injuries, family members of deceased workers, and employers convicted of OHS infractions involving injuries and fatalities. We have seen firsthand the positive impact that Creative Sentencing principals can have on the healing journeys of everyone involved.

Why it Matters

Survivors and families affected by severe workplace injuries and fatalities often take solace in knowing that positive action has been taken to prevent other families from experiencing a similar loss. Direct involvement in projects, whether by telling their stories on camera or in person or by participating in the content development and review process, also gives families a sense of control over their experiences and can be an important part of their healing process.

Employers involved in serious workplace injuries and fatalities are often deeply affected by these incidents and value the opportunity to create positive change not only on their own worksites but across industry. Involvement with Creative Sentencing projects means that convicted employers are able to reach a wider audience with important messages drawn from their experience, including breakdowns of how the event unfolded, how it impacted their business and their workers, and what steps they have taken to prevent similar incidents from occurring on their sites in the future.

No one wants to be involved in a workplace injury or fatality, but when one occurs, Creative Sentencing gives both the person(s) harmed and the parties found responsible a positive way to move forward, and the projects resulting from these sentences mean incidents are not simply processed and forgotten.

Creative Sentencing Projects to Date

Safety in Schools was awarded our first Creative Sentencing project in 2014 and completed our sixth in 2019.

Six online courses, one video and essay contest, and seven school speaking tours, all funded through Creative Sentencing, have directly impacted more than 9,400 students across Alberta with lessons drawn from real life incidents and shared by the real people involved in them.

Project NameProject Partner(s)AwardedCompleted
Life Lessons – Learning the Hard WayN/AOctober 2014March 2016
Lessons from the WorkplaceN/AFebruary 2015September 2016
Heavy Machinery – It Always WinsN/AJune 2015March 2017
Introduction to Automotive Shop SafetyAMTA February 2017September 2017
Propane and Natural Gas Safety at HomeACSAJuly 2017September 2018
Tragedy at the QuarryACSA, ASGA, AHCRBAJanuary 2017March 2019

These projects have allowed us to provide a wider array of content to our students – content that focuses on why workplace safety is so important along with how they can protect themselves. The courses that we have developed using Creative Sentencing funds are lasting items that students are able to access any time, anywhere with an internet connection now and into the future.

Three of these projects included funding for school speaking tours, allowing us to bring survivors of workplace injuries into school to speak directly to students about their experiences. These tours have become an invaluable part of the Safety in Schools program and their impact cannot be overstated.