Alberta Government Thinks Not Reporting Fatalities Will Make Them Go Away

 

Alberta Provincial Government No Longer Reporting Farm Fatalities
 
The Alberta Federation of Labour (Canada) is criticizing the provincial government for no longer reporting farm fatalities, according to a report from the Canadian Press.
 
The federation claims the move is an example of how ''agricultural workers are being erased in Alberta.''
 
 
Criticism That Lack of Reporting Hides Problem
 
''This decision to stop reporting the number and nature of farm deaths helps to hide the real problem _ Alberta's deplorable lack of workplace protection for farms workers in the province,'' spokeswoman Nancy Furlong said recently.
 
''It's particularly insulting to the families of those killed on the job to have to call on the government to continue to simply report these incidents.''
 
 
Only Province in Canada Farm Workers Not Covered by Health & Safety Laws
 
The federation says the province is the only one in Canada where farm workers aren't covered by occupational health and safety laws. It says they are also excluded from legislation on hours of work and overtime, statutory holidays and vacation pay.
 
A judicial inquiry in 2008 into the death of worker Kevin Chandler in a farm accident near High River, Alta., recommended the inclusion of farm labourers in laws ensuring workplace protections.
 
''It is the government's duty to protect workers, but also to report their deaths and injuries. Death and injury prevention requires knowledge of the frequency and nature of the incidents,'' said Furlong.
 
 
Province Announced Plans on Website
 
The federation says the province announced its plans on a government website and offered no meaningful explanation for the change.
 
Alberta Agriculture said recently it is reviewing how it publishes information about farm worker deaths and injuries with an eye to protecting the privacy of victims and their families.
 
Stuart Elson, a ministry spokesman, said at least two ministries are studying the issue. ''Education and awareness are best suited to the practical realities of farming,'' Elson said. ''We are continuing to work with the Ministry of Human Services to improve farm safety. That is all I can really say at this point.''
 
 
More Criticism of Policy
 
The NDP's agriculture critic used a stop in Lethbridge, Alta., to blast the government for what he called inaction on workplace safety for farm workers.
 
David Eggen said it's disturbing that the lives of Alberta labourers on the land appear to mean so little to the government.
 
''It's very dangerous work and farm workers are not being protected with the basic rights that other workers have here in Alberta,'' Eggen said.
 
''They're far behind the rest of Canadian farm workers and now suddenly (Premier Alison) Redford makes the page go dark on the statistics that we can use to track farm workers here in the province,” he added.
 
 
 

Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher.  www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com Contact mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com

 

 


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Alberta Hockey Rink Dedicated to Fallen Worker

An Alberta community has dedicated their rebuilt hockey rink to a young worker who was killed on the job, according to a report from the Canadian OH&S News.
 
 
The Josh Malysh Rink of Dreams, just outside Devon, Alberta, about 40 kilometers southwest of Edmonton, was officially opened last month. Josh's father, Charles Malysh, said about 500 people came out for the opening. (WCxKit)
 
 
"The old one was falling apart. My son had spent a lot of time there playing shinny with his friends, and when we approached the idea to do a park or something as a memorial, [his friends and family] wanted to do something where Josh spent a lot of time, which was at that rink," said Malysh.
 
 
The new rink was built by a crew of mostly friends and family using donated materials, according to Malysh, after the old outdoor rink was demolished about a month ago.
 
 
Josh Malysh's friends filled the concrete pad that the ice will sit on with mementos of his life. His goalie sticks were buried in the concrete under the nets, his old jersey under centre ice and his trophies were placed in a container and buried as well.
 
 
Josh Malysh was working with Sureway Construction in southwest Edmonton, installing water and sewer lines in a new subdivision. As the crew was lowering a concrete sewer pipe into the trench he was working in, it swung around unexpectedly, pinning the 21-year-old worker against the wall of the trench and fatally crushing him, said Barrie Harrison, a spokesman for Alberta Employment and Immigration.
 
 
A stop work order was issued after the incident, but OH&S charges have not been laid, Harrison said.
 
 
Charles Malysh also works for Sureway, as a project manager. He wasn't on site at the time of the accident, but says he was there when his son was pulled out of the trench. (WCxKit)
 
 
"What they think is you are safe at home, you're safe at work, the place where an accident is going to happen is going to and from. In this case it was an accident at work and I'm trying to show them accidents happen all over the place," said Malysh. "You have to be safe all the time."
 
 
Author Robert Elliott, executive vice president, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. has worked successfully for 20 years with many industries to reduce Workers Compensation costs, including airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality and manufacturing. See www.LowerWC.com for more information. Contact: Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

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CANADA Alberta Targets Commercial Construction Site Safety

In a continuing bid to improve its health and safety record, Alberta's labor minister has announced that a safety blitz targeting commercial construction sites will take place in the province.

The blitz
, which was announced and initiated earlier this month, will take place for at least a month and will target commercial construction projects over five storeys, confirms Chris Chodan, a spokesman for Alberta Employment and Immigration (AEI) in Edmonton. "We've had a number of incidents, primarily in the Calgary area, but there have been one or two incidents in other cities," he says. "We thought it was just a good idea to make this a reminder to employers." (WCxKit)

The increased inspections
will focus on ensuring that proper fall protection is in place and that workers have secured all materials when working at heights. Chodan reports that the blitz has been dedicated to the memory of Michelle Krsek, a three-year-old girl who was killed last year after metal sheets fell on her while she was walking down a Calgary street with her family.

The enforcement blitz
is in line with the province's 10-point safety plan, released in July, which promised to implement updated compliance and enforcement procedures. Robin Kotyk, chief operating officer of the Alberta Construction Safety Association in Edmonton, suggests that the blitz will be "beneficial to the industry," but argues that it is needed in all sectors

Construction
, he suggests, is a particularly visible industry, which makes it a strong candidate for a high-profile blitz. "Construction is basically in the forefront of your observations when you drive down streets. It's out there," he says.  

Ron Harry
, executive director of the Building Trades of Alberta, which represents over 60,000 construction union members province-wide, also endorses the blitz. "You're going to have a lot of workplaces that are safety oriented, but you're going to have those that are not, and that's the enforcement part of that," he suggests.

While Harry
supports the blitz, he is opposed to the idea of on-the-spot ticketing for workers, an idea that Minister Thomas Lukaszuk is currently considering. "Right off the top of my head," Harry says, "I'm not in favor of fining employees simply because the employees are subordinate to the employers."

But Bob Robinson
, president and general manager of Westcor Construction in Calgary, argues that both parties are potentially liable for safety violations. "There's always the human element that's part of the equation and tough to put your finger on," he notes.

If a worker is found to have
been properly trained, he suggests, the individual error should be corrected. "If individuals can be ticketed for not working safely, putting themselves or others in danger, if they're aware that that's a possibility, there is a handful out there that needs that motivation."

However, he points out
, employers must be held to the same standard. "If the company just hasn't looked, if the worker hasn't been told, hasn't been orientated… the company's at blame, and they should be ticketed."

Kotyk supports both increased enforcement
and ticketing, as well as a renewed focus on education for both workers and employers, endorsing "education of the workforce in general, education of the owners themselves on what they need to know for compliance." If a worker or employer is found to be in violation of a safety regulation, he says, they should be given the chance to receive education on the subject, and if it recurs, a fine should be levied.

Harry, however, suggests that
the industry move away from assessing safety according to what he calls a behavior-based system. "The environment itself on a job site, each and every thing that occurs on that job site, whether it be the actions of the employer, whether it be the actions of someone delivering material…all contribute to the safety factor," he argues.

In August
, Robinson and the Calgary Construction Association published a best-practices guide for construction sites in the city, focusing on four areas of safety: hoarding of a construction or demolition site; managing vehicular and pedestrian traffic adjacent to sites; lifting and hoisting operations; and securing construction materials and equipment on site. (WCxKit)
 
The guide represents "the accumulation of ideas from over 1,000 man-years of hands-on construction experience from a great number of companies, specifically focused on the interface between construction sites and the public," Robinson reports.

 

Author Robert Elliott, executive vice president, Amaxx Risks Solutions, Inc. has worked successfully for 20 years with many industries to reduce Workers Compensation costs, including airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality and manufacturing. Contact:  Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com or 860-553-6604.
 
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©2010 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

Alberta Officials Investigate Payments to Foreign Workers

The Alberta government says it's behind an investigation into whether a cleaning company has been paying its temporary foreign workers properly.
Bee-Clean Building Maintenance has acknowledged that it owes some of its janitors overtime pay due to an administrative error and has hired an accounting firm to review its books. (WCxKit)
But Alberta Employment Standards says it ordered Bee-Clean to pay for an independent review of its payroll for all 3,000 of the company's workers following complaints this summer by some of the janitors.
Employment Minister Thomas Lukaszuk said the accounting firm KPMG is doing the review and is to submit its final report to the government. Bee-Clean must hand over any money it owes the janitors to the province, which would pay it out.
"We will serve the company with an order demanding them to make restitution,'' Lukaszuk said Wednesday. “This order is court enforceable. The employer will be expected and compelled to comply.''
The government says it wants the report from KPMG by the end of the month.
If problems are found with Bee-Clean's books, the province would order another review, which could lead to the Edmonton-based company being charged under Employment Standards legislation, he said.
Lukaszuk said it's important for businesses and workers to understand that Alberta's employment standards apply equally to everyone in the province regardless of their nationality or where they come from.
"It doesn't matter whether you're a born Albertan or from Ontario or from another country,'' he said.
Recently, Bee-Clean issued a statement saying it owes some employees back pay for overtime.
Robert Scott, the company's regional director, said the company is working with the province to resolve the situation.
"We have apologized to all affected employees and have advised them of our intentions,'' Scott said.
"We are working to calculate the money owed based on manual time records and we have engaged KPMG to conduct an independent, third-party review of our preliminary findings and payroll practices to ensure this doesn't happen again.''
The payroll issue is part of a larger dispute between some Bee-Clean janitors who want to join the Services Employees International Union and the company, which employs the workers at the University of Alberta.
The union has launched lawsuits on behalf of the some of the janitors over unpaid wage claims and has filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the Alberta Labor Relations Board. The complaint alleges some of the janitors have been fired or threatened for talking about joining the union.
The SEIU represents Bee-Clean employees in Ontario and Quebec who were organized under the union's Justice for Janitors campaign.
Bee-Clean countersued on Oct. 15. The lawsuit claims union statements about unpaid overtime and threats to employees are false and malicious. Statements of claim contain allegations that have not been proven in court. (WCxKit)
Meanwhile, the union says students, faculty and staff at the University of Alberta have formed a committee to support the janitors. The committee says it is planning a campus rally to be held next month.
Author Robert Elliott, executive vice president, Amaxx Risks Solutions, Inc. has worked successfully for 20 years with many industries to reduce Workers Compensation costs, including airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality and manufacturing. Contact:  Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com or 860-553-6604.
 
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©2010 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

Alberta Employment and Immigration Posting Employer Performance Information

 Alberta Employment and Immigration (AE&I) is now posting annual performance information about Alberta employers. (WCxKit)
The first report includes data from 2005 to 2009, and includes occupational fatality numbers, the lost-time claim numbers, and lost-time claim rates for employers in Alberta who are required to have a WCB-Alberta account.
A lost-time claim rate can serve as an indicator of a company’s safety performance but it is not a conclusive measure by itself.
WCB-Alberta provides AE&I with data collected as part of its administration of the Workers Compensation Act.
For the purposes of the new employer performance reports, WCB-Alberta provides the following data as of March 31 for each year:
  1. Industry codes
  2. Number of claims accepted
  3. Number of fatality claims
  4. Insurable earnings for the year (payroll)
This is point-in-time information. If changes are made to claims status, industry codes, or insurable earnings after March 31, the data in WCB-Alberta’s records may differ from the published reports.
The workers comp system is a no-fault mutual insurance system, so the data collected does not attribute fault.
The number of lost-time claims shown on the current report has been accepted by WCB-Alberta as of March 31, 2010. Claims can be registered by an employer, an injured worker, or a health care provider within two years of the incident, so these numbers may change slightly over time.
WCB-Alberta regularly audits employers to ensure they are reporting claims properly. Insurable earnings figures can change if employers modify the figures they have reported to WCB-Alberta, or if WCB-Alberta conducts an audit. Industry codes may also change as a result of employers changing their operations.
The number of fatalities shown on the report has been accepted by WCB-Alberta as of March 31 of each year. The fatalities are shown in the year they were accepted, not by the year that they occurred.
AE&I uses WCB-Alberta data to calculate the person-years estimate and lost-time claim rates for employers.
AE&I and WCB-Alberta have different business reporting requirements, so the statistics released by AE&I and by WCB-Alberta are not expected to be identical.
For questions about the five-year employer lost-time claims and fatality reports, employers should contact AE&I at 1-866-415-8690.
AE&I can supply details about this information, including claims, what the insurable earnings figures are and how the person years were determined. (WCxKit)
WCB-Alberta will help explain the published data by answering questions about industry codes, lost-time claims, insurable earnings, and fatality numbers.
An employer can get up-to-date performance information from WCB-Alberta by accessing the Loss Control Reporting (LCR) online service through WCB-Alberta’s Web site at: http://www.wcb.ab.ca/
 
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CANADA Mechanic Death Leads to Charges Against Edmonton Equipment Dealer

Sometimes we are asked: Why does WCK Blog write about so many injuries, accidents and deaths in the workplace and the resultant lawsuits – they seem so alike. 
In our ever on-going goal of being a resource to employers to reduce their workers compensation costs, we see these blogs an opportunity to teach “what not to do” in the workplace and why safety and training programs are so important.
An Edmonton-based equipment dealer was charged with four counts under Alberta's occupational health and safety legislation after the death of a worker two years ago according to Canadian OH&S News. The employee, working as a mechanic, was killed on the job at Suncor Energy Inc.'s Millennium mine site.
The company – a division of Finning International, the world's largest dealer of Caterpillar equipment – is scheduled to appear in court on August 30 at Fort McMurray Provincial Court.
Finning workers at the site were "moving a disabled hauling truck to the shop for repairs," says Chris Chodan, a spokesman with Alberta Employment and Immigration (AEI). The mechanic was run over by the vehicle and fatally injured, Chodan confirms. (WCxKit)
A spokesman from AEI also confirmed two other workers sustained minor injuries in the accident. One was treated on-site and the other was treated and released at a local hospital. AEI also issued a stop work order restricted to the immediate area around the accident site.
A  statement released on Finning’s web site called the man’s death a "truly a tragic incident – one that will forever impact his family, all those who worked alongside him in the oil sands and our company as a whole." The statement also affirms that "at Finning, safety is a core value that influences everything we do. We remain committed to achieving and sustaining health and safety excellence in all of our business operations."
The company is charged with failing as an employer to ensure, as far as it is reasonably practicable to do so, the health and safety of workers engaged in the work of the employer, as stipulated under section 2(1)(a)(i) of the provincial OH&S act.
Finning is also charged with violating sections 7(4) and 8(1) of Alberta's Occupational Health and Safety Code. Section 7(4) states an employer must ensure a hazard assessment is repeated at reasonably practicable intervals to prevent the development of unsafe and unhealthy working conditions; when new work processes are introduced; when a work process or operation changes; and before the construction of significant additions or alterations to a work site.
In addition, Section 8(1) stipulates an employer must involve affected workers in the hazard assessment and in the control or elimination of the hazards identified. (WCxKit)
Finally, Finning is charged with violating section 15(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation, demanding an employer must ensure a worker is trained in the safe operation of the equipment the worker is required to operate.
The moral of the story: “It costs less to design and implement good safety and training programs and make sure employees follow them then to pay the high costs to defend the resulting lawsuit(s).”
   \ 
Author Rebecca Shafer,
  President, Amaxx Risks Solutions, Inc. has worked successfully for 20 years with many industries to reduce Workers’ Compensation costs, including airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality and manufacturing.  Contact: Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com  or 860-553-6604.
  
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Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers' comp issues.
  
©2010 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact
 Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com 

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