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October 27, 2010

Alberta workplace deaths draw ire of union leader

Three recent workplace fatalities in Alberta have drawn the ire of at least one union leader.

These incidents, which included a man falling off a ladder while doing construction work at CFB Edmonton Oct. 15, are being held out as proof that the government needs to take more action to save lives in the province.

A 71 year-old man employed by WD Contractors Group Ltd. was working on a building at the Edmonton military base on Oct. 15. He sustained a serious head injury while working on a ladder and was taken to an Edmonton hospital, but later died from his injuries.

This was the second fatality on a jobsite in Alberta in less than a day. A 42-year-old contractor was killed on Oct. 14, after he was backed over on a Canadian Natural Resources site near Fort Chipewyan.

The man, who was employed by Ellen’s Contracting Inc., but was not a construction worker, has not been identified.

On Oct. 16, a man working for Bearing Oilfield Services in Bonnyville died after suffering head injuries while using a crane to offload piping.

According to the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), these fatalities reflect an inadequate provincial safety regime.

“Unless concrete steps are taken to improve workplace safety in the province, more and more Albertans will die at work as the economy picks up,” said Gil McGowan, president of the AFL.

“Alberta is one of the most dangerous places in Canada to be a worker. We have more people working in dangerous industries than other provinces and we have a workplace fatality rate that’s much higher than the national average.”

Alberta Immigration and Employment recently reported that 20 fatalities occurred at worksites in the province in the first seven months of 2010. During the same period in 2009, there were 16 workplace fatalities in the province. This year’s increase is being driven by the construction industry, which accounted for 11 of the fatalities or 55 per cent of the total.

In the first seven months of 2009, there were four workplace fatalities related to the construction industry.

The AFL has called on the provincial government to improve workplace safety by posting the full safety records of employers online and stepping up the prosecution of employers with unsafe worksites that cause injury and death.

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