Alberta workplace injuries hit record low, says province

Workplace injuries have hit a record low in Alberta, the province said Wednesday as labour groups demanded more action to protect employees.

"Alberta today is at a 19-year low relative to injuries," said Employment Minister Thomas Lukaszuk.

"There were 13,000 fewer people hurt last year on the job."

In 2009, 1.69% of workers filed lost time claims, the lowest number since the province started tracking the claims in 1991.

The disabling claim rate in 2009 was 3.09%, also a record low.

Still, 26,000 Albertans were hurt on the job last year, while 110 people died.

Of those fatalities, 49 were caused by occupational disease, 41 were workplace accidents, and 20 were motor vehicle incidents.

"That's 110 Albertans too many," Lukaszuk told reporters.

"Every Albertan deserves to come home after work unhurt and, obviously, alive."

In 2008, 166 people died on the job.

More must be done to protect workers, said the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees president.

Guy Smith said too many people are being hurt or killed on the job.

"That is simply not acceptable," Smith told a crowd gathered for a memorial ceremony.

"It's a disgrace."

The Alberta Federation of Labour, meanwhile, said the province must spend more money on workplace safety to spare employees from danger.

Gil McGowan, AFL president, said the government spends less on workplace safety now than it did in 1991.

"Keeping Albertans safe just doesn't seem to be the high priority it should be," he said.

Though injury rates have dropped, the province won't stop working to keep bringing those figures down, the minister said.

"I will not be resting on the laurels of these numbers," Lukaszuk said.

"And I will be the first one to tell you that we still have a long way to go."

Layoffs caused by last year's economic downturn accounted for some of the injury rate decline, Lukaszuk said, but he attributed most of the plunge to increased worker education.

Lukaszuk also addressed a recent auditor general's report that suggested lax enforcement at Occupational Health and Safety was letting problem employers put workers in danger.

He said he has since hired eight more front-line workers to inspect workplaces.

"I will be following all of the auditor's recommendations," Lukaszuk said.

"Any extra set of eyes that will provide me with constructive criticism is good for all of us."

Edmonton Sun, Wed Apr 28 2010
Byline: Michelle Thompson

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