Alberta cuts health and safety committee requirements

Journal of Commerce News Service | December 23, 2019

EDMONTON, ALTA. – The Alberta government has announced it will do away with the requirement for health and safety committees at multiple worksites for some industries.

The move has received praise from the Alberta Construction Association (ACA) which stated that joint committees have not shown improvement in safety while creating a whole new level of red tape to administer.

“Alberta is the second safest province according to comparisons of lost time claim rates in Canada,” said ACA officials in a statement. “Our record of safety is ahead of Saskatchewan, BC and Manitoba and other provinces that mandate joint health and safety committees.”

ACA officials added that the focus on worksite committees has shown little to no difference in keeping workers safer. 

“Indeed, joint committees could well weaken the principle of internal responsibility, in which each and every worker and supervisor take action now, rather than passing issues off to a committee to be dealt with at a future time,” they noted.

The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) called the change an attack on safety rules designed to make sure workers have a say in their own safety.

“It’s shameful that the Kenney government dismisses rules and protections that make Alberta workplaces safer, as red tape,” said Gil McGowan, AFL president, in a statement. “We elect governments to defend the interests of citizens, not to help employers cut corners at the expense of safety.”

McGowan called workplace safety committees the cornerstone of safe workplaces and said no one knows the safety issues in a given workplace better than the workers themselves.  

“And no one is better placed to come up with solutions for addressing those concerns,” he said.  “Disbanding and disempowering these committees will undermine safety in Alberta workplaces, not strengthen it.  Instead of workers having a mechanism to look after their own safety, they’ll once again be reliant on sporadic enforcement from the government.”

He accused the province of doing the bidding or employers, rather that protecting workers.

“They’ve chosen to put the narrow concerns of employers, who want to cut corners and save a few bucks, over the broader concerns of working people, who just want to get home safely at the end of their shifts,” said McGowan. “Shameful, but predictable from a party that represents bosses, not workers.”