On the eve of the 5th International Day of Mourning, the Alberta Federation of Labour released calculations showing that government funding for Occupational Health and Safety enforcement is a fraction what it was ten years ago. They also highlighted that the number of fatal accidents on the job has doubled since this time last year.
As we commemorate another Day of Mourning, it saddens me to observe that workplace death in Alberta is the worst it has been in decades," says AFL President Audrey Cormack. "This government is not taking the safety of workers in Alberta seriously."
Cormack observes that there have been 19 fatal accidents on Alberta worksites so far in 2000. At this time last year, there were only 10. In recent years, worksite fatalities have been at record highs. During the past three years 339 workers were killed due to fatal accidents and occupational diseases. "I fear that the year 2000 will bring more worker deaths than ever. It is a tragic way to begin a new century," notes Cormack.
Cormack states the cause of the increase in workplace deaths is the failure of the Alberta government to enforce health and safety laws. "There is no political will on the part of this government to make sure workers are safe. They would rather let employers police themselves."
The AFL released calculations, based upon government figures, showing that during the past ten years, Occupational Health and Safety has been cut dramatically by the government. Ten years ago, the government spent $10.61 per worker (in 2000 dollars) on health and safety. This year, this amount is only $4.36.
In ten years the government health and safety budget dropped from $12.2 million, to only $7.2 million currently. This amounts to a 42% budget cut in ten years.
"When you factor in inflation and growth in the labour force, the Alberta government is spending a fraction of what it did in 1991," observes Cormack. "Less than $5 per worker is allocated to keeping workplaces safe and workers alive."
An indication of the problems is that there is inadequate staff to handle the workload. There are 58 Health and Safety Officers to handle every workplace in the province. "The department has a policy of assigning two officers to investigate every fatality," observes Cormack. "With the current number of fatalities, almost every officer is investigating a fatality, leaving virtually nobody to do inspections or less serious investigations."
"It should be no surprise to us that we are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of worker deaths and other serious workplace accidents," concludes Cormack.
Alberta Government Health and Safety Spending Per Worker (Year 2000$)
Source: Alberta Public Accounts, Government Estimates, Labour Force Statistics, Consumer Price Index
|Fiscal Year||Occupational Health
and Safety Budget
Source: Alberta Public Accounts, Government Estimates
For more information call:
Audrey M. Cormack, President @ (780)499-6530 (cell) 483-3021 (wk)
Jason Foster, AFL @483-3021