Dark Side of a Boom - Worker Death Rate Hits 25-Year High

EDMONTON-The Alberta Federation of Labour today blamed government inaction on health and safety enforcement for the rising number of workplace fatalities in Alberta. The AFL made the observation on the 11th International Day of Mourning to remember workers killed because of work. The Day of Mourning was marked across the province in hundreds of workplace and community ceremonies.

"It's the dark side of the boom," says AFL President Gil McGowan. "More Alberta workers were killed in 2005 than in any other year in the past quarter century. We may be booming, but the price of that boom is being paid in the lives of workers."

"Employers are busy trying to keep up with demand, and to do so, they are cutting corners. Unfortunately one of the first corners cut is safety - with an end result of growing numbers of accidents and deaths."

McGowan firmly placed the blame on government inaction. "The government's job is to make sure employers obey the safety laws, but they are doing nothing to make workplaces safer. In fact, they are denying there is a problem at all."

McGowan points out that the government continues to claim workplaces are getting safer, despite growing evidence that things are more dangerous. Some of the mounting evidence includes:

  • A 2005 CIHI study found Alberta has the highest rate of work-related acute trauma cases in the country (CIHI, April 2005).
  • Alberta's 2004 fatality rate per capita was the third highest in Canada, behind only Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. (National data for 2005 is not yet available)
  • Alberta had almost 170,000 officially recorded workplace accidents in 2005, up 9.3% from 2004. This is almost 500 a day.
  • The WCB's 2005 Total Disabling Injury Rate (a more accurate measure of safety than the so-called Lost Time Claims rate or LTC) is up 5.4% from 2004 (It is currently 4.28 per 100 workers).

"Government claims that workplaces are safer today are contradicted by all the evidence," says McGowan. "When the government does acknowledge there is a problem, they blame workers for carelessness and 'stupidity.' This does nothing to address the real causes of injuries."

McGowan points to a series of government print ads that show unsafe work with the large label "stupid". "The government ads are a case of blaming the victim. Workers need to work safely, but employers hold the primary responsibility for making workplaces safe. And the government's job is to make sure employers obey the law."

Day of Mourning was recognized by the Canadian Parliament in 1991. It is now commemorated in more than 80 countries worldwide. McGowan will be speaking to the Edmonton ceremony, tonight at 7:00 pm at Edmonton City Hall.

The AFL maintains a tally of all workers killed since 1905, which can be found at www.afl.org.

NOTE: AFL President Gil McGowan is available throughout the day for interviews.

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For more information call:

Gil McGowan, AFL President  @       (780)483-3021(office) (780)915-4599(cell)


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