"There were 142 deaths on Alberta worksites between 2006 and 2009, but only four of those deaths led to convictions," says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), which represents 140,000 workers. "That's a 2.8-per-cent conviction rate for worksite fatalities. If you add the 17 charges that are pending, Alberta prosecutes at a rate of only 14.8 per cent. What about the 121 other workers who have lost their lives on worksites since 2006?"
Meanwhile, all of the 2009-2010 convictions were on guilty pleas, which clearly shows the government is unwilling to litigate Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) cases, says McGowan. "They appear to only go to court when they have 100-per-cent chance of winning, meaning they aren't willing to put any resources toward making employers accountable."
This is in line with what a former Crown Prosecutor recently said in media reports, when she revealed that the Crown is "cherry-picking" cases, using too high of a legal threshold when deciding whether to lay charges. She believes safety violators are not being properly deterred in Alberta and workers and their families feel the fallout.
Through its failure to publish the full safety records of employers, including the names of companies with OH&S violations, through its failure to follow up on violations as identified recently by the Auditor General, and through its meagre spending on workplace safety compared to other jurisdictions, the Alberta government has clearly shown it puts the desires of business ahead of the safety of Albertans, says McGowan.
See the following for a detailed analysis of 2009-2010 prosecutions and convictions for injuries and fatalities under the OH&S Code.
Nancy Furling, Secretary Treasurer, Alberta Federation of Labour @ cell 780-720-8945
Backgrounder - Link to 2006-2009 Summary of Health and Safety Prosecutions