Workplace safety needs work, says AFL: Labour union releases 10-point plan to improve safety

The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) released a 10-point plan yesterday on how they would like to see workplace safety improved in the province just as the Alberta government unveiled a few more initiatives of its own.

The AFL's plan calls for sweeping changes to workplace safety in Alberta, including mandatory health and safety committees at businesses and worksites, increased resources for prosecutions, administrative fines for workplace safety infractions and more occupational health and safety officers to hand them out.

The government's announcement Friday included the addition of eight workplace health and safety investigators, a new process for family input in workplace health and safety prosecutions and a new program to look at occupational diseases.

AFL president Gil McGowan said with an economy rebounding it is urgent that the government bring in these new regulations so workers are protected during the next boom.

"We think we can and we must do more to keep Albertans safe."

McGowan said the ideas his group put forward are simple, would save lives and have been proven in other jurisdictions.

"These are not radical ideas, they are proven ideas."

McGowan and other members of the AFL delivered 2,500 postcards calling for joint workplace health and safety committees to Employment and Immigration Minister Thomas Lukaszuk.

The committees, which involve employers and employees meeting regularly to discuss safety issues, are commonplace in most Canadian provinces, McGowan said, adding he can't understand why Alberta's government would not require them here.

"Every other province has workplace health and safety committees and the evidence shows that they work. I am baffled that the government hasn't introduced them here."

Lukaszuk said the government is studying many similar proposals to what the AFL put forward, but is doing it in a roundtable discussion with employers, labour unions and safety associations.

If new rules aren't created with input from these groups, enforcing them would be a huge uphill battle, he said.

"There could never be enough occupational health and safety officers to enforce them if the employers and employees did not buy into the message to begin with."

Lukaszuk said he is happy to receive the AFL's proposal, but plans to continue working with several different groups to come up with system changes rather than listening to only one set of proposals.

McGowan did applaud Lukaszuk for making several strides on this issue compared to previous ministers. He also said the new investigators are welcome, but not enough.

"Even with today's announcement about bringing eight new inspectors, I am not sure Alberta will have come up to the national average."

Lukaszuk said he is open to more inspectors if necessary, but he won't add them purely for political reasons.

"All of the initiatives of occupational health and safety are paid for by employers directly. This is not taxpayers bearing the cost, it is employers through WCB and I am not in the practice of hiring individuals just for the sake of hiring individuals."

St. Albert Gazette, Sat Nov 6 2010
Byline: Ryan Tumilty

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