The province is gearing up to publically shame employers with shoddy safety records.
Thomas Lukaszuk, minister of employment and immigration, recently unveiled a 10-point plan to clamp down on companies who opt to sidestep safety standards.
Among the revamp in accountability and transparency, the province will start posting the safety records of all Alberta companies online in September.
“This is the day when the status quo is no longer acceptable.”
Lukaszuk said the province is also hiring eight more occupation health and safety workers bringing the province’s total to 94. An update on compliance and enforcement procedures is underway and a pilot project for weekend and evening inspections will be launched shortly as well, he said.
“Let this serve as official notice for any Alberta company that doesn’t want to play by the rules,” he said, adding the 10 initiatives will be in place by the end of the year.
As to posting companies’ safety records, Lukaszuk said Alberta’s approach is unprecedented in Canada. “Frankly, we’ll be the only province doing this because Nova Scotia adapted it, but they haven’t released an entire list of all employers in their province.”
Lukaszuk said the vast majority of employers he’s talked to back the plan.
“If you speak with employers in Red Deer, for example, you will find that probably 98 per cent of them will say ‘Good’ because they are proud of their records. It will be the two per cent that say ‘Oh my God, I don’t like it’.
“They deserve to be shamed. If they’ve earned it, then they deserve it.”
“But if 98 per cent of them are happy with it, then you are actually rewarding 98 per cent of employers by publically exhibiting how they are doing.”
Posting the safety records of course works in the public’s best interest as well, he said.
“The ultimate goal is that you, as an Albertan, should be able to look up your employer’s track record and see how safe you are when you’re leaving your family for work in the morning. How does the company compare to other shops that do the same job with a similar numbers of employees?
“It will also enhance employers’ abilities to attract and retain workers, which when the economy picks up, becomes a big issue for employers.”
He said it will also offer a competitive advantage to those businesses who do well in terms of safety record disclosures.
“If you are large company hiring subcontractors to work on your project, I think you will look at it because you don’t want companies working on your job site that have a poor track record of occupational health and safety.”
Lukaszuk said he felt this type of list should have always been published.
“I’m getting support from labour groups, employer groups so I think we struck the right chord here.”
Meanwhile, Lukaszuk said as to the province’s economic recovery in general, progress is being made. “Recovery is not linear. You will not see an improvement month to month. It’s also not linear geographically – you don’t see all regions rising at the same level.
“But overall, if you look at Alberta’s statistics, Alberta is recovering at a reasonable rate. Some will argue we’re recovering at a slower rate than other provinces but you have to put that into context.”
The latest government statistics show the province’s unemployment rate in June was 6.7% as compared to the national average of 7.9%.
Lukaszuk said Alberta’s road to recover is “significantly shorter” than what other provinces will have to go through. “We managed to shelter ourselves to a large degree from the brunt of the world wide recession, so we haven’t sunk as deep as other provinces.”