How Many Worker Deaths Are Too Many?

The tragic wave of workers killed on the job in the past six days is a marker that the Alberta government is not doing enough to protect worker safety, says the Alberta Federation of Labour. In the wake of these avoidable tragedies, the AFL is calling for stronger health and safety legislation, including a ban on working alone.

The AFL's call comes after three deaths in less than a week, including the murder of a young woman working alone in a Calgary Subway store. One worker was killed on the Suncor site in Fort McMurray. A third worker was killed in Northeast Edmonton on Tuesday.

"How many worker deaths will it take for this government to act," asks AFL President Audrey Cormack. "Every one of those deaths was preventable. They shouldn't have happened. There are too many holes in Alberta's health and safety legislation," observes Cormack. "And what is worse is that the Conservative government refuses to enforce what rules that do exist."

"The tragedy of the young woman killed at the Subway store is made worse by the fact that if she wasn't working alone, the whole horrible incident could have been avoided."

Cormack is calling for toughened health and safety legislation, including renewing her call for a ban on working alone. The AFL will be writing the Premier and the Minister of Human Resources and Employment urging them to pass legislation during the spring sitting.

The AFL reminds Albertans that two years ago, an Edmonton custodial worker was sexually assaulting while working alone in a school at night. "Being by yourself leaves you far more vulnerable to attacks, and for that reason it should be banned," says Cormack.

"These deaths also show that the government's strategy of 'self-enforcement' is a failure," says Cormack. Self-enforcement is a policy where employers voluntarily enforce health and safety legislation themselves through their own associations.

"The fact is the past three years have been the most deadly in history," Cormack points out. In three years, 339 workers were killed on the job or due to occupational disease. This is the highest cumulative figure in Alberta history. In 1997, 120 workers were killed. In 1998, 105 were lost. The preliminary figures for 1999 are 114 deaths.

Something is going horribly wrong in this province, and I fear it is the result of bad government policy. The government's inaction proves they are putting profit margins ahead of human life, and I find that immoral," Cormack concludes.

For more information call:

Audrey Cormack, President: @ 483-3021(wk) 499-6530 (cell) 428-9367 (hm)

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