Alberta takes steps to reduce workplace injuries

New legislation will raise maximum fines, WCB contributing $3.3 million more in an effort to reduce injuries by 40 per cent

The Alberta government is compiling a list of who is good and who is bad when it comes to workplace safety — and it plans to publish the names of companies on both ends of the spectrum as part of changes to the provinces Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Bill 37 will increase fines for health and safety violations and increase public awareness about safety in the workplace in an effort to reduce workplace injuries, according to MLA Tony Abbott, the sponsor of the bill.

“(This) represents an important step in the government’s plan to reduce workplace injuries by 40 per cent over the next two years,” said Abbott. “Keeping Alberta workers safe is a responsibility shared by employers, labour, safety associations, government and workers themselves.”

Bill 37 proposes five major amendments to the province’s Occupational Health and Safety Act:

•Increasing the maximum fine for an OHS offence from $150,000 to $500,000.

•Introducing penalties other than fines or incarceration for OHS offences, such as providing safety programs or education programs.

•Streamlining the process for updating OHS rules by allowing the creation of an Occupational Health and Safety Code to govern the codes of practice for worksite safety.

•Allowing the use of administrative fines similar to those used in traffic violations. The introduction of these fines will depend upon a review of these fines in other jurisdictions to determine their effectiveness.

•Publishing the names of employers with the best and worst safety performance in the province.

“These amendments strengthen the government’s regulatory and enforcement efforts and set the stage for implementation of the ‘Workplace Safety 2.0 strategy,’” said Clint Dunford, Alberta’s Human Resources and Employment Minister. “Reaching our goal will mean 15,000 fewer injured workers each year.”

A copy of Bill 37 is available at www.assembly.ab.ca.

Increased funds for workplace safety

The employer-funded Workers' Compensation Board (WCB) is increasing its annual transfer of funds to the Alberta government by $3.3 million to $9.6 million to support the Workplace Safety 2.0 initiative.

"Workplace Safety 2.0 is a comprehensive strategy developed by industry, labour, safety associations, government and the WCB to reduce injuries and fatalities on Alberta worksites 40 per cent by 2004," said Dunford.

Since 1976, Alberta's WCB has transferred money to the province to help cover the costs associated with administering the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The $3.3 million increase will be used to implement the Workplace Safety 2.0 strategy through a series of enhanced enforcement, education and awareness activities.

"Achieving a lost time claims rate of 2.0 by 2004 will mean 15,000 fewer injured workers each year. This will result in a savings of around $200 million in WCB claim costs and lower WCB premiums for Alberta employers," said Dunford. "The time has come to make safety the new bottom line."

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