Workplace safety website falls short of pledge; Full safety records to remain clouded in secrecy

EDMONTON - While the government has taken nearly a decade to finalize its website with workplace injury and fatality records, workers will have to wait even longer to get the full safety records they were promised.

"Workers are entitled to know the full safety records of employers, including their history of violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Code," says Nancy Furlong, Secretary Treasurer of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), which represents 140,000 Albertans.

In 2002, the province promised to reveal Alberta's best and worst employers. What the watered-down website will provide is a long way from fulfilling that promise.

Lost-time claim statistics, by themselves, mean nothing, says Furlong. To encourage bad employers to improve their ways the province should post compliance orders, court orders, and other safety documentation.

Using the website to reveal if employers hold a Certificate of Recognition (COR) sounds good, but unless the problems with the program identified by the Auditor General are fully addressed, it is meaningless.

The Auditor General reported that half of the employers who had failed to comply with occupational health and safety orders continued to hold valid CORs, which helps them win contracts and qualifies them for reduced workers' compensation rates.

As well as lacking the courage to reveal the names of employers who violate the safety code, the government has taken no action to improve its dismal record of prosecuting those who break the law. Alberta currently prosecutes at much lower rates than other provinces, even in cases involving workplace fatalities. Since 2006, the province has prosecuted in less than three per cent of workplace fatalities.

"Employers must be made to pay the price for putting the workers' lives at risk, but this is still not being done," says Furlong. A plan for more aggressive prosecutions should be a core part of the minister's plan.

The AFL also believes that making Joint Worksite Health and Safety Committees (JWHSCs) a mandatory structure in the Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) Act is vital to improving safety at worksites.

These committees provide an avenue for concerns, complaints and issues to be addressed. They help employers and workers talk about safety issues and find common ground. These roles are key to establishing a positive and effective health and safety environment in a workplace.

"The government still has an opportunity to take real action to save the lives of working Albertans and to prevent workplace injuries. It should do so," says Furlong.

Media Contact:
Nancy Furlong, Secretary Treasurer, Alberta Federation of Labour @ 780-720-8945 (cell)

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