Rona Workplace Fatality Demonstrates Need for Tougher Forklift Rules

The AFL noted today the death of a 16-year old Rona hardware worker and suggests it could have been avoided with tougher legislation.

"Workplace fatalities are always a horrible tragedy, especially when the worker is so young," says AFL President Gil McGowan. "Our immediate thoughts go out to the family of this young man."

"But I also cannot help thinking that if we had more appropriate safety laws around forklifts, this might have been avoided."

Forklifts are a regular and particularly problematic safety problem in workplaces, McGowan points out. "Accidents are frequent with forklifts. Most are caused by a lack of training on safe use, or inappropriate uses of the lift, such as working from the forks."

McGowan highlights that Alberta's Occupational Health and Safety Code is virtually silent on the issue of forklifts. The only two provisions require a legible load rating chart and that if the lift has seat belts, the belts be used and be maintained in good condition.

"Because our Code says nothing about forklifts, employers do very little to ensure they are used safely," says McGowan. "There is inadequate training on what should and should not be done - and the result, unfortunately, are accidents like yesterday's."

McGowan also highlights that in the revamping of the Safety Code a few years ago, worker and some employer representatives pushed for tougher forklift rules, including certification of operators. Those amendments were rejected by other employer groups and the government, and the status quo remained.

"There is so much more that can be done," says McGowan. "Look at Manitoba. They have a comprehensive Code of Practice for forklifts. Operators must be certified by an independent trainer, and the employer has a series of responsibilities for keeping the forklifts safe."

The Manitoba approach ensures more substantial training, safe operation, and ongoing monitoring of credentials, says McGowan. "The government needs to move immediately to implement the Manitoba model for safety protection on forklifts."

"Workers want to work safely. But to achieve that, they need proper training and education on the hazards of their job and the machinery they work with," says McGowan. "And it is the government's responsibility to make sure rules are in place to make it happen."

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For more information contact:

Gil McGowan, AFL President @ 780.483-3021 (office) or 780.218-9888 (cell)

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