An article in the Calgary Herald today announced that Alberta's workplace deaths drop sharply in '09. This is great news, but I wonder if it is really due to safe work practices or simply the decline in activity. With the amount of job losses are employees ensuring they do things properly to ensure they do not lose their job?
Gil McGowan the president of Alberta Federation of Labour is not happy that Alberta has enjoyed a lower amount of prosecutions compared to other jurisdictions. What this has to do with the safety of workers, I have no idea. I can't reasonably believe an employer's decision whether or not to put a life in danger, would be based on fines and prosecution.
Alberta has some of the most stringent safety regulations and the companies strive on their own initiative to ensure worker safety. The COR program is a voluntary partnership which sets a high standard for safety, and is implemented by many companies. Alberta was one of the first places to implement this, and has the highest participation.
Bob Barnetson, who specializes in labour relations at Athabasca University, suggests government get tougher on companies breaking safety rules. In 2005 the Alberta government collected $5,000,000.00 in fines, which seems fairly steep to me. The problem I have, is not that government is cracking down on safety violations, rather what they classify as a safety violation. In the research I have done on the violations and prosecutions in Alberta, it would seem to me that the workers have no shared responsibility when it comes to safe work practices. There are many safety measures and equipment supplied to these workers by employers that simply are not used or followed. Workers that do no use their safety harnesses, safety glasses, steel toed boots, gloves, etc... are not liable for their actions. Companies have written policies that discuss not only what equipment is required, but also the proper care and maintenance of it. When the employee makes the decision not to use them, the employer is at fault for not ensuring workers safety.
Saying that an employer is responsible for ensuring an employee is adhering to the safety practices is not always practical. The only possible way is to have a safety officer watching each employee, which is not at all reasonable. Employees must learn that these measures are in place for their safety and take responsibility for themselves and the public as well. When an employee chooses to go their own way they place themselves in danger, and place the employer in a vulnerable spot, and as we have seen in Calgary the public as well. Is there no common sense at all to know when something may be dangerous? This decision could be the one that forces a company to close it's doors, all because of one persons stupidity. Is an employees laziness, or bad judgement reason to prosecute the employer? I realize there are companies that take shortcuts on safety, and yes these should be prosecuted to the fullest extent. What about these employees though, shouldn't they be open to the same recourse? Do employees not share safety responsibility? After ten years of doing the same job, are they really improperly trained?
If an employer needs to hold employees hands every step of the way, then they may as well do the job themselves. You will always find a way after an incident or accident that could have prevented it, however is prosecuting the company the best prevention? I think if the responsibility was shared, it would be best.
6 hours ago