Inspections announced for summer jobs, labour group says it’s not enough
May 9, 2011 by With files from the Canadian Press
The Alberta government has announced a new set of workplace inspections aimed at targetting summer jobs held by post-secondary and high school students. Employment Minister Thomas Lukaszuk said that focusing on health and safety on the job when they’re young will stress the importance of workplace safety throughout their entire careers.
But the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) said that this latest in a series of workplace safety inspections isn’t doing much to help.
“These inspection blitzes have provided undeniable proof of the dangers faced by workers; however, these one-off inspection blitzes do not solve the problems of workplace safety – they simply show that the problems exist,” said Gil McGowan, president of the AFL, which represents 140,000 workers.
“To make our workplaces safer – to save lives and prevent injuries – blitzes must be backed up with more concrete action, including ongoing random inspections, hiring even more inspectors than the minister has announced, giving them increased powers to issue on-site tickets for violations, increased mandatory training for such things as forklift operations and mandatory joint worker-employer safety committees.”
Lukaszuk recently revealed that a forklift inspections blitz in February and March resulted in 214 orders being issued by inspectors against employers for violations. Of the 87 employers visited, 65 were found to have failed to maintain or inspect their forklifts, or did not properly train workers.
“The minister is trying to convince Albertans that he’s being serious about safety, but one-off blitzes simply scratch the surface. They don’t save lives,” said McGowan. “It’s hard not to come to the conclusion that Employment and Immigration Minister Thomas Lukaszuk is simply playing politics and trying to create the impression that he is doing something. In reality, all these blitzes do is tell us how serious the safety problems are.”
McGowan said government figures show the number of Alberta workers killed on the job jumped by almost 25 percent last year to 136 deaths from 110 the previous year.
The government has increased the number of safety inspectors, McGowan acknowledged, but he added much more needs to be done.
The labour federation has repeatedly called for improvements to workplace safety that include posting full safety records of employers online, increasing prosecutions against employers whose unsafe worksites cause injury or death, and giving inspectors the power to issue tickets for violations during inspections. It also wants mandatory worksite health-and-safety committees that include workers.