Albertans can now see information about worksite injuries and fatalities involving more than 140,000 employers insured by the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB).
The release of these records is part of government’s 10-point plan for achieving greater transparency and accountability for occupational health and safety in the province. The template for this information was released in August to give employers time to prepare. The records include more information than that currently provided by any other jurisdiction in Canada.
Albertans can now see the following information for each employer:
- number of lost-time claims
- estimated number of employees
- lost-time claim rate
- number of fatalities
- if the employer holds a Certificate of Recognition, and
- industry and province-wide lost-time claim rates for comparison purposes.
The records can be found online at www.employment.alberta.ca/employerrecords. For Albertans without computer access, information is available by calling the Occupational Health and Safety Contact Centre at 1-866-415-8690 (or 780-415-8690 in the Edmonton area).
Labour not impressed
But according to the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), Alberta's new website offering workplace injury and fatality records may be well intentioned, but gets a failing grade.
"This morning, we tried working with this new website. It does not give complete information, is not easily accessible, and is very difficult to understand," says Gil McGowan, President of the AFL which represents 140,000 workers.
The new site offers information that is almost useless to the average citizen and in a format that is hard to navigate and digest. The AFL took names of companies charged under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Employment Standards Code - see http://employment.alberta.ca/SFW/6751.html#top for details - and searched the new safety records website for information on those companies. The AFL found:
- Clayton Construction Limited is facing seven charges, laid September 2, 2010, for an alleged offence involving a fatality on Sept. 2, 2008. A search on the new site came up with "no results found."
- Canadian Natural Resources faces two charges from the same fatal event. The same company has also been charged in relation to three other fatalities and three injuries - or six of the 31 active charges (20 per cent) listed by Employment and Immigration. A search of the new site brings up three records for the company, two of which have references to Lost Time Claims (LTCs) in 2008, and LTC rates marginally above the rates for the industry, but no reference is made to the fatality or charges.
- Central Alberta Well Services Corp. faces five charges for an alleged offence on August 26, 2008. A search on the new website results in a dizzying array of eight records for the company, under varying Industry Name segments, each giving different Lost Time Claim statistics.
"This kind of information may be of some use to professional researchers and statisticians, but it is bewildering and meaningless to average citizens and workers trying to find out if employers do a good job on health and safety," says McGowan.
While the AFL is pleased that more information is being published than in other jurisdictions, that information is of little use in its current form, says McGowan. The website also fails to include the most important data - a full record of violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Code.
"Albertans need to know how many times employers have been written up by health and safety officers and those reports should be posted, the same way some jurisdictions post health-inspector reports done on restaurants. We also think the website should have information about all 'stop-work' and/or 'stop-use' orders that have been issued to Alberta companies for safety violations," he says.
The release from the government notes that there were 158,500 WCB-insured employers in 2009. Information has been released for about 146,600 of them. The records provide an overview of injury claims, fatalities and industry comparisons. They provide basic information but are not a complete record of safety programs. The information is a snapshot so does not reflect the most current statistics.
Of the 391 industry sectors, information has not been released for about 49 industry sectors, including 11,900 employers, where WCB coverage is voluntary. There are similar employers in these sectors who have made different insurance choices whose information is not available. Industries include: advertising agencies; banks and insurance companies; clubs and associations; consultants; farms, feed lots and apiaries; research labs and medical centres. A complete list of voluntary industries is online at: www.employment.alberta.ca/employerrecords
Employers and workers in the industries listed in Schedule A of the Workers’ Compensation Regulation are exempt from mandatory WCB coverage.
Examples include accounting, babysitting, farming, labour organization, telephone solicitation, and teachers, principals or administrative staff employed by a school board, a private school or a chartered school (as defined by the School Act).