Province posts workplace safety records online

Alberta's employment ministry is heralding a new website that tracks company-specific fatalities and workers' compensation claims, but already the opposition says not enough information is being disclosed.

Thomas Lukaszuk, the politician in charge of the portfolio, announced the launch of the online initiative Thursday morning, arguing the data will lead to increased transparency and safety.

"I hope that releasing this information will make Albertans more accountable for the safety of themselves and their co-workers. I hope it makes employers more accountable to their employees," he said of statistics compiled through the Workers' Compensation Board.

"Employers will have another incentive to improve health and safety performance on the job site."

Liberal critics, however, believe the online resource doesn't fulfill its purpose because there is information missing about safety violations.

"If we want to make a real difference and make our work sites safe and productive, the minister has to release the orders, the written orders that have been submitted to an employer as a result of Occupational Health and Safety laws," said Hugh MacDonald.

"64 per cent of work sites in this province that were inspected had to have a written order, for either an unsafe or unhealthy work site."

The Alberta Federation of Labour seconds MacDonald's concerns, saying information on companies convicted under the Occupational Health and Safety Act is available through other government sites, and should be included on this new one as well.

"We are afraid people visiting the website looking for information on a particular employer will get a false impression on whether that company is really taking workplace health and safety seriously," said Gil McGowan.

Right now the profiles of 140,000 employers insured by the Workers' Compensation Board are available, allowing Albertans to see how companies within the same industries compare to one another. Information includes number of lost-time claims made, number of fatalities and whether employers hold a Certificate of Recognition - a designation given to workplaces that develop health and safety programs that meet set standards.

Building Trades of Alberta is applauding the initiative.

"This gives [people] the grassroots information that says, 'has this employer had fatalities?'" said Ron Harry.

Lukaszuk says the undertaking is the first of its kind and could one day be expanded to include other information, including written work orders.

CTV News, Thur Sept 30 2010
Jessica Earle

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