Worker safety rules under review

Labour Day, a day meant to celebrate the economic and social achievement of workers.

Now there is word new rules may be added to protect them.

On the spot fines could be added to the arsenal of measures targeting Alberta companies and workers who break health and safety laws.

The province is considering introducing the fines as an extra deterrent.

It's a move seen as long overdue by the unions.

They've wanted on the spot fines for decades, arguing health and safety officers don't currently have enough power and Alberta's prosecution record falls short.

"To give you an idea how bad it is, in the last four years out of 142 deaths, only four cases have been successfully prosecuted. So the prosecution rate is less than 3%, which is abysmal," Gil McGowan of the Alberta Federation of Labour told CTV Calgary,

The province announced a crackdown on health and safety at work in July.

On the spot fines would be an extra measure on top of other moves like posting the safety records of all companies online.

This latest idea is still under construction and is being discussed with industry.

Both the Calgary and Alberta construction associations welcome the idea.

They believe it could help motivate workers to operate safely.

"When it comes to workplace health and safety, the problem is frankly not with employees, the problem is lack of training and lack of access to proper safety equipment,"says McGowan.

Companies say they want a grace period before the fines are introduced.

But unions argue workers shouldn't have to wait an extra day for powers to protect them.

Workplace deaths did fall in 2009, but unions fear another building boom could take numbers back to where they were in 2008.

The number of workplace deaths in Alberta in 2009 was 110.

That was down by a third in 2008 when there were 166 workplace deaths., Tues Sept 7 2010

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