Construction industry had most workplace fatalities in Alberta

The construction industry had the highest number of workplace fatalities of any sector in Alberta in 2009, but this figure is the lowest in the last five years.

Alberta's Ministry of Employment and Immigration reported at total of 110 workplace-related deaths in 2009.

They are broken down into nine industry sectors, with construction responsible for 34 deaths, or 31 per cent of all fatalities.

"The construction industry has more inherent risk and more opportunity for injury than other industries," said Employment and Immigration spokesman Chris Chodan.

These numbers represent the first decline in the number of total and construction fatalities in the province since 2006.

In Alberta, there were 124, 143, 124, 154 and 166 workplace fatalities each year between 2004 and 2008.

For the construction industry there were 47, 55, 42, 50 and 59 deaths over the same five-year period.

"The only thing we can think of that might have caused the fall in the number of fatalities is the economic downturn, because we don't have all the data," said Chodan.

"What we really need is the injury rate, which is a better indicator because fatalities are included in the total number of injuries. The bigger number gives us a much more accurate indication of where things are tracking."

A provincial analysis of fatalities in 2009 won't be completed until April.

Others in the industry agreed.

"This doesn't mean that the Alberta workplace is a safer place than last year. It just means that there was an economic slowdown," said Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan.

"We still have an unacceptable level of fatalities and accidents, especially in construction, oil and gas, and forestry. So, the numbers don't reflect an improvement in the safety situation."

During the recession, thousands of workers were squeezed out of the labour market.

About two million Albertans were employed in 2009, which is 25,200 fewer people than in the previous year.

McGowan said the most dangerous sectors were the ones that slowed down the most during the recession.

He maintained that the decline in fatalities isn't due to anything that the government or employers have done to make things safer.

The preliminary report included several examples of 2009 Alberta construction fatalities including:

  • In May, 27-year-old Lance James Orr died after concrete forms slipped out of a crane sling and crushed him to death at a downtown Calgary building construction site. The forms weighed about 1800 lbs. Orr worked for Paganotta Industries assisting the crane operator with the movement of material on site.
  • In June, a cement slab crushed and killed a 23-year-old construction worker on the south side of Edmonton. He was cutting a door through a six-inch thick pre-cast concrete wall, when the slab let loose and crushed him against the rear of a truck.

The man, who worked for Derrick Concrete, was rescued from under the slab and later died of his injuries.

  • In July, 37 year-old foreman Daryl Binder was on a 16 foot high wall, when he fell and was impaled on a piece of rebar at Athabasca University. The foreman worked for Chandos Construction.
  • Michael Shannahan, 45, was killed at a Suncor oilsands project near Fort McMurray in August, while he was repairing a tire on a heavy hauler. He was in the process of inflating the tire, when the steel components became detached and struck him. Shannahan, who was an employee of Cow Harbour Construction L
Journal of Commerce, Mon Mar 1 2010
Byline: Richard Gilbert

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