When you walk into your workplace, you should always feel safe. If you are injured on the job, you shouldn’t be afraid to report it.
But a new report has found that is not the case in Alberta.
Research released by the University of Alberta’s Parkland Institute last week found that there were around 170,000 injuries serious enough to require time off or modified work in 2016, but only 45,000 were reported.
Out of a poll of 2,000, workers they found that nearly 70 per cent of disabling workplace injuries in Alberta go unreported.
These numbers are staggering and indicate a huge problem in workplaces across the province.
Bob Barnetson is the co-author of the institute’s report. In an interview with CBC News, he said there are two reasons that workers don’t report injuries – they don’t think it is serious enough and they fear retaliation from their employer.
“In workplaces that are particularly dangerous, where the highest risk of injury exists, you find 40 per cent of workers are scared to even ask for health and safety information,” said Barnetson.
The report recommended a number of changes that the Alberta government should implement. They advised that they should increase the number of workplace safety inspectors, allow for inspections by civil society groups, increase consequences for violations and make violations more public.
When it comes to physical health and safety in the workplace, what has become known as the ‘union effect’ has created a safer work environment. Researchers have found in both North America and internationally, that where there is a union present, workplaces injury rates are lower than non-union. In Canada a recent study found that unionized construction sites were 30 per cent less likely to suffer critical injuries.
Unions have fought for health and safety for decades, many labour laws that are taken for granted today were made possible by unions. Through leadership safety training, implementing safety protocols in collective bargaining and fighting for mental health support in the workplace like the Teamsters 362 Make It Mandatory campaign.
No one should ever have to feel unsafe in the workplace, and unions may be able to help you.