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Construction industry had most workplace fatalities in Alberta


February 28, 2010
By Andy Bateman

February 28, 2010 – The
construction industry had the highest number of workplace fatalities of any
sector in Alberta
in 2009, but this figure is the lowest in the last five years, reports the Journal of Commerce. 

Alberta’s Ministry of
Employment and Immigration reported at total of 110 workplace-related deaths in
2009, the report continues.  

They
are broken down into nine industry sectors, with construction responsible for
34 deaths, or 31 per cent of all fatalities.

“The
construction industry has more inherent risk and more opportunity for injury
than other industries,” said Employment and Immigration spokesman Chris Chodan.

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These
numbers represent the first decline in the number of total and construction
fatalities in the province since 2006.

In
Alberta,
there were 124, 143, 124, 154 and 166 workplace fatalities each year between
2004 and 2008.

For
the construction industry there were 47, 55, 42, 50 and 59 deaths over the same
five-year period.

“The
only thing we can think of that might have caused the fall in the number of
fatalities is the economic downturn, because we don’t have all the data,” said
Chodan.

“What
we really need is the injury rate, which is a better indicator because
fatalities are included in the total number of injuries. The bigger number
gives us a much more accurate indication of where things are tracking.”

A
provincial analysis of fatalities in 2009 won’t be completed until April.

Others
in the industry agreed.

“This
doesn’t mean that the Alberta
workplace is a safer place than last year. It just means that there was an
economic slowdown,” said Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan.

“We
still have an unacceptable level of fatalities and accidents, especially in
construction, oil and gas, and forestry. So, the numbers don’t reflect an
improvement in the safety situation.”

During
the recession, thousands of workers were squeezed out of the labour market.

About
two million Albertans were employed in 2009, which is 25,200 fewer people than
in the previous year.

McGowan
said the most dangerous sectors were the ones that slowed down the most during
the recession.

He
maintained that the decline in fatalities isn’t due to anything that the government
or employers have done to make things safer.