The AFL is commemorating the 13th International Day of Mourning today by remembering the 166 Albertans (154 officially "recognized" workers and 12 farm workers) who lost their lives in 2007 because of work. Day of Mourning is recognized internationally to commemorate workers who are injured or killed because of work (see Backgrounder).
"2007 had the most work-related fatalities since 1982, and was the sixth highest in the province's history," says AFL President Gil McGowan. "And the first two months of 2008 were even worse."
McGowan points out 28 workers were killed in the first two months of 2008, up from a year earlier. While he acknowledges it is still very early in the year, he observes that "if we continue to lose workers at this rate, we will kill 170 workers in 2008, which will be the highest number since the Hillcrest Mine disaster in 1914."
The problem, McGowan notes, is the boom. "Employers are cutting corners on training and safety procedures to meet the huge demand. The result is more accidents. Many workers choose to walk away from unsafe jobs rather than pressure for more safety, meaning bad employers don't improve. And the government is not doing enough inspections and enforcement."
In 2007, over 175,000 accidents were reported to the WCB. This works out to 20 accidents every hour - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. "It can be hard to put our heads around numbers as big as 175,000, but we need to find a way to recognize the magnitude of what is going wrong at workplaces. Work in Alberta is simply not safe enough," says McGowan.
The AFL is calling on employers, government and workers to do more to make our workplaces safer. "Government needs to toughen safety legislation and do a better job enforcing it. Employers need to stop cutting corners on safety in the interests of profit, and workers need to be more vocal in defending our rights to safe work."
Alberta communities and workplaces around the province will be taking time today to remember workers killed and injured due to work, through minutes of silence, ceremonies and other gatherings. The official Edmonton ceremony will be at City Hall at 7 p.m. Calgary's event will be at noon at Edward's Place Park.
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For more information contact:
Gil McGowan, AFL President @ 780.483-3021 (office) or 780.218-9888 (cell)