A blitz of residential construction sites by inspectors is a welcome step in making worksites safer, but this short, one-off campaign is not the solution to safety woes, says the province's largest labour organization.
"Employers have been warned inspectors are on their way and have been told how long the blitz will last. They will make an effort to clean up their acts and follow Occupational Health and Safety rules for a few weeks but, once the blitz is over, they will be free to return to their dangerous ways, knowing that they are unlikely to see more inspectors until another blitz is announced," says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, which represents 145,000 workers.
"What is really needed to encourage permanent change in worksite practices are regular and random inspections that come without warning," says McGowan. "To make our workplaces safer – to save lives and prevent injuries – blitzes must also be backed up with more concrete action, including hiring more inspectors and giving them increased powers to issue on-site tickets for violations."
The AFL has released a 10-point plan to improve safety with these and other recommendations including more prosecutions of problem employers, protection for workers who blow the whistle on unsafe practices, the posting of all safety records and violations online and mandatory joint worker-employer safety committees.
"This is not rocket science, nor is it revolutionary. Most of these policies are already in place in other provinces. Alberta workers deserve at least the same level of protection," says McGowan.
"Employment and Immigration Minister Thomas Lukaszuk has become the minister of blitzes, having already announced focused inspections this year on commercial construction sites, young workers and forklift operators. Each time, despite employers being warned in advance, the inspectors uncover lots of problems.
Just imagine what the inspectors would find if their visits weren't broadcast in advance," says McGowan.
"The AFL has been offering the same simple advice on how to save lives and prevent injuries for many years. It is disappointing that the minister says this issue is a priority, but lacks the will to take real action to protect workers. It seems he prefers to play politics and create a false impression for the media that something is being done."
MEDIA CONTACT: Gil McGowan, AFL president, 780-218-9888