In 2017, no one should have to feel worried about their safety at work, but the reality is that many do. Every year there are headlines across Alberta about workers seriously injured or killed on the job.
In August alone three employees were injured in an explosion at a car wash in Red Deer and a Cremona man was killed on the job.
We have one of the highest per capita number of workplace fatalities in Canada, with 144 workplace fatality claims just last year. Albertan’s know we can do better and now the government has a chance to make that happen.
Labour Minister Christina Gray announced last week that the NDP government will launch a review of the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act that has not been revamped since 1976.
This seems to follow a disturbing pattern in Alberta of not updating labour legislation. Until this year, labour laws had not been updated in the province for nearly three decades.
Needless to say a lot has changed since the 70s – technology, politicians, culture and society. These changes have all effected the workplace today and the hazards associated with it.
The OHS is legislation in the province that establishes minimum standards for safe and healthy practices in Alberta workplaces through inspection, investigations and prosecutions.
The government pointed out three key areas that they plan to make changes to – clarifying responsibility in legislation, improving worker engagement in workplace health and safety and improving coordination and use of tools available for prevention.
The good news is that public has been invited to participate by completing an online survey or writing the government to suggest how OHS could improve.
Labour unions have fought for health and safety in workplaces since their beginning and many of the laws we have today are because of unions.
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 study found that unionized construction sites were 30 per cent less likely to suffer critical injuries.
One way is through leadership. Union shop stewards are able to ensure the safety of everyone in the workplace and are available if employees feel that they need to report any health or safety violations.
Unions also provide safety training courses that can range from Transportation of Dangerous Goods First Aid Construction Safety Training System (C.S.T.S.), to forklift training, to mental health anti-stigma training.
Make sure that you take the time to give your opinion on how you think the government can improve worker safety in our province at the following link https://www.alberta.ca/ohs-system-review.aspx.