EDMONTON - Alberta's Workers' Compensation Board (WCB) is continuing its "long-established practice of blaming the victim" when it comes to issues of workplace health and safety, says the president of the province's largest labour organization.
Audrey Cormack, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, says that the WCB's latest injury-prevention campaign is a bust because it focuses exclusively on workers - and ignores the responsibilities of employers and the government.
"Educating workers about workplace safety is important," says Cormack. "But it's only half of the solution. Employers and government also have an important role to play. More pressure needs to be placed on employers to ensure healthy and safe working conditions. And the government needs to become much more aggressive in finding and punishing employers who fail to observer minimum health standards."
Cormack's comments were made after the WCB released a "safety alert" calling on Albertans to avoid workplace injuries by being careful on the job. The safety alert was the latest component of a WCB campaign launched in the spring aimed at reducing injury rates. The campaign urges Albertans to avoid injuries by "working safe."
"Once again, the WCB is putting the responsibility for workplace safety on the shoulders of working people, when in reality it should be a responsibility that's shared with the employer, the government and the WCB," says Cormack. "Telling people not to hurt themselves is not going to solve the problem. We'll only be able to reduce injury rates if we combine education efforts with higher health and safety standards, more aggressive inspections and stiffer fines and penalties."
"If the WCB is really concerned about reducing injury rates," Cormack says, "they should support the implementation of measures that have worked in other jurisdictions. For example, in places like B.C. and Quebec businesses over a certain size are required to have joint employee-management health and safety committees. Where these committees are in place, injury rates have fallen substantially," says Cormack.
"Instead of wasting their time producing frivolous "safety alerts" calling on people to stretch before lifting heavy objects, the WCB should turn its attention to more serious concerns," says Cormack. "For example, they should be trying to figure out why the number of workplace fatalities in this province has shot up from 74 in 1993 to well over 100 per year in 1997 and 1998. And they should be addressing the serious concerns that have been raised recently about the quality of service available to injured workers. This campaign of blaming workers for their own injuries just doesn't cut it - it does nothing to address the real problems."
For more information call:
Audrey Cormack, AFL President: 483-3021 (wk) 499-6530 (cell) 428-9367 (hm)