Who looks out for employee safety?

By Charles Strachey

April 28, 2016 12:00 AM

Dear Working Wise:
One of my co-workers was seriously injured at work recently and so I was just wondering how common it is to get hurt at work. Who’s supposed to be keeping employees safe?
Signed, Who’s Responsible

Dear Who’s Responsible:
Workplaces are getting safer.
Alberta’s lost-time claim rate has fallen steadily over the past decade from 2.54 in 2004 to 1.31 in 2014.
The lost-time rate is the number of employees who had to miss work due to injuries for every 100 person-years worked.
And, workplace fatalities were down in 2014 to 169 from 188 in 2013, but one lost life is too many.
The construction and construction trade services industry has the highest number of workplace fatalities with 37 per cent of fatalities happening in this sector.
The most common causes of injuries and deaths in the workplace are:
• 20 per cent are struck by an object like a swinging pipe or falling equipment,
• 15 per cent fall from roofs, ladders, scaffolding or down elevator shafts,
• 12 per cent are caught by an object or machinery, e.g., a glove caught in a lathe.
• 12 per cent are vehicle accidents, including quads and equipment rollovers, etc.
• 10 per cent are exposed to harmful substances like electricity or hydrogen sulfide gas.
You can see the complete list of workplace injury and fatality statistics at
Who is responsible for keeping workers safe?
The short answer is, everyone.
That sounds like an easy answer, but the fact is that we all have a critical role to play. Government passes legislation and codes that set standards for what employers and employees can do on the job.
Employers train their workers and set policies that keep workers safe.
And, employees take training, follow safe practices, and watch out for their co-workers.
Alberta Occupational Health and Safety investigates workplace incidents to help prevent future similar injuries and holds employers responsible.
In 2014, there were nine OHS convictions resulting in more than $2.7 million in penalties.
The Alberta government promotes safer workplaces through education, free online training, helpful tips and public awareness campaigns, including: Work Right, Work Safe Alberta, Before It’s An Injury, Bloody Lucky, and Where’s The Line.
All of these resources are available at work.alberta.ca/ohs.
The Government of Alberta also partners with a wide array of industry associations and employers to promote safer workplaces.
A complete list of partners in injury reduction is available at work.alberta.ca/ohs.
This includes supporting North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week.
The goal of NAOSH week is to raise awareness about preventing workplace injuries and remind everyone that safety is a shared responsibility between government, employers and workers.
We all share the same goal: we want every Albertans to return home safely at the end of every work day.
May 1 to 7 is North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week.
The theme this year is “Make safety a habit.” For a list of local NAOSH events happening this upcoming week, check out naosh.org.
Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at charles.strachey@gov.ab.ca. Charles Strachey is a manager with Alberta Human Services.

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