On the eve of the 10th International Day of Mourning, the Alberta Federation of Labour is releasing the latest statistics on workplace fatalities in Alberta, showing an increase in both the number of deaths and in the fatality rate.
"The problem is getting worse, not better," says AFL Secretary Treasurer Kerry Barrett. "Alberta is losing the battle against workplace death."
Last year 127 work-related deaths were accepted by WCB. This is the highest figure ever recorded in Alberta. In addition, another 14 deaths occurred on farms in Alberta. Farm deaths are not included in WCB statistics, but can be considered work-related deaths as well.
The fatality rate in Alberta is also on the rise. In 2003, the rate was 7.0 deaths per 100,000 workers, up from 5.65 deaths in 2002. If farm deaths are included, the rate jumps to 7.7. Over the past ten years rates have climbed slightly. In 1993, the rate was 5.38 (see backgrounder).
"Despite all its rhetoric and its ad campaigns, the government has failed to protect workers," says Barrett. "Why are death rates climbing?"
"The answer," Barrett suggests "is lack of enforcement. The government continues to treat employers with kid-gloves." Barrett is encouraged by recent increases in fines and prosecutions, but she says much more can be done to send the message that health and safety is a serious matter in Alberta.
"The message to Alberta employers needs to be that if they do work in Alberta, it must be done safely. No exceptions."
The AFL will be joining with thousands of workers across the province tomorrow to commemorate Day of Mourning. It is an important day, says Barrett, because it is an opportunity to both remember those workers who were killed and to shine a spotlight on the dangers of work.
"But Day of Mourning is just one day," says Barrett. "If we are to make sure no one is killed because they needed to earn a paycheque, then all of us - employers, workers and government - need to step up our action to prevent another working getting killed."
"Enough words. Time for action."
- 30 -
For more information contact:
Kerry Barrett, AFL Secretary Treasurer at 483-3021 (wk) or 720-8945 (cell)
Jason Foster, Director of Policy Analysis at 483-3021