Agriculture worksites bigger violators than construction sites: union

If Alberta's workplace minister is appalled with the level of danger in construction sites, he should see what's happening within provincial farms, says a union boss.

"If government inspectors had the right under the law to investigate agricultural worksites, I have no doubt they would find at least as many violations as they would in construction," said Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.

"In fact, I would expect they would find more."

Immigration and Employment Minister Thomas Lukaszuk announced Tuesday he was "disgusted" with the results of a six-week blitz that involved inspecting nearly 300 construction sites.

As a result, 214 violation orders were issued, including 39 stop-work orders.

The AFL has been calling on the provincial government to make Alberta's workplace safety laws inclusive of agricultural work.

As it stands, Alberta Occupational Health and Safety has no jurisdiction to investigate farm workers.

McGowan said 13 farm workers have died on the job in the past year, while around 160 have been killed over the past nine years.

"It's not surprising the agriculture (industry) has such a high fatality rate," McGowan said.

"It's directly linked to the fact the sector is not covered in the health and safety code."

As of September 2010, there have been 40 deaths in the construction industry this year, compared to about 15 at the same time in 2009.

Edmonton Sun, Wed Jan 5 2011
Byline: Michelle Thompson

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