News that three Alberta workers have died in workplace accidents in three days is proof that the government must take concrete action now to save lives, says the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL).
"Unless concrete steps are taken to improve workplace safety in the province, more and more Albertans will die at work as the economy picks up," says Gil McGowan, president of the AFL, which represents 140,000 workers.
There were 76 occupational fatalities in the province as of July 31st this year. At the same time last year, there were only 58 workplace fatalities reported.
"Alberta is one of the most dangerous places in Canada to be a worker," says McGowan. "We have more people working in dangerous industries than other provinces and we have a workplace fatality rate that's much higher than the national average."
The AFL has repeatedly called for simple and direct action to improve workplace safety and save lives, including posting the full safety records of employers online, as promised by the government eight years ago; increasing the province's dismal record for prosecuting employers whose unsafe worksites cause injury and death (the prosecution rate for workplace fatalities is 2.8 per cent); increasing the number of worksite inspections; giving inspectors the power to issue tickets for violations during inspections; and introducing mandatory worksite health-and-safety committees that include workers.
"What the government has offered instead is weak 10-point plan that focused on a safety-records website which offers little information of any use to workers and a promise to hire eight new inspectors," says McGowan.
"None of the measures advocated by the AFL are rocket science. They are tried-and-true methods that have proved effective in saving lives in other jurisdictions. Bearing in mind the deaths of the last few days and the Auditor General's recent report slamming OH&S procedures, it is impossible to understand why these changes have not been implemented," says McGowan.
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Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour @ 780-218-9888 (cell)