Alberta Workplace safety violators will soon be hit with harsher penalties.
Employment and Immigration minister Thomas Lukaszuk announced Tuesday that workplace deaths, serious injuries and multiple stop-work orders are now grounds for immediate safety reviews.
"We're putting employers on notice," said Lukaszuk. "After July 1, we'll be launching reviews as soon after a workplace incident as possible."
The rule change applies to companies who belong to the Certificate of Recognition (COR) program. COR holders are granted accreditation through a peer based application and approval process. The program recognizes companies who develop a health and safety management system that meets established Employment and Immigration standards.
Lukaszuk says the move is an effort to hold companies accountable after they've received a COR.
"Once you apply for COR and you receive it, there was really no compliance method to make sure that you continue to be living up to the requirements of COR," said Lukaszuk.
More than 9,000 companies in Alberta hold COR certificates. Those companies employ nearly 50% of the workforce in the province.
Of the nine workplace fatalities in Alberta this year, two of the companies can be found on the government list of COR holders.
Employers who have workplace fatalities, serious incidents or injuries, or are issued two or more stop-work orders in a 12 month period can have their COR revoked.
"Now the likelihood of our officers entering your work place unannounced randomly is quite high because I have doubled the number of occupational health and safety officers," said Lukaszuk.
COR accreditation is generally required to bid on substantially larger projects in Alberta. COR holders also receive WCB rebates through the annual Partnerships in Injury Reduction program, which saw upwards of $77 million refunded to Alberta companies last year.
Since the COR program first launched, the Alberta Liberals have called the accreditation process flawed, saying any company who applies can receive the certificate.
"A significant number of companies had these CORs whether they were justified or not, so it was kind of a rubber stamping: apply for it and you receive it. And now, Lukaszuk is talking about actually making it meaningful, which it hasn't been up until this point," said Liberal Employment Critic Harry Chase.
The Alberta Federation of Labour echo's Chase, pointing to a recent "damning report" by the Auditor General that identifies 63 companies that failed health and safety orders, and some still hold CORs.
"The government handed out CORs like Candy - and did little or nothing to take them away from problem employers," said ALF president Gil McGowan. "For these new guidelines to work, the system must be completely transparent. Unfortunately, the government has already proved it lacks the courage to make public the full safety records of employers."
For a list of companies who hold COR certificates visit www.employment.alberta.ca
Edmonton Sun, Thurs Jun 2 2011
Byline: Tanara McLean