A private security company has been charged with failing to ensure the safety of a female employee who was raped while working alone two years ago.
Garda Canada Security Corp. has been charged with one count under the province's Occupational Health and Safety Act for not ensuring, as far as reasonable, the health and safety of a worker.
It is the first time a company has been charged because of a sexual assault, said Occupational Health spokesman Chris Chodan. Usually, the charge is connected to other workplace incidents, such as an accident.
"Usually, when it's violence, it's a straight-up criminal offence," he said. "In this case, it was a criminal act by the person who committed it and there was a work-related issue on top of that."
The charge was laid Oct. 31 -- just under the two-year time limit -- in connection to the Nov. 1, 2006, attack on a woman working overnight alone at a construction site on Macleod Trail.
The victim had only been on the job a few days when she was working at the site, which was secured by only a tarp.
She called 911 when she heard banging and shouting and police were dispatched to the site. Before they arrived, Renno Allen Lonechild attacked and raped the then-34-year-old woman.
During court proceedings, it was learned the woman -- a former teacher in an African country -- was new to Canada, had limited English, only one day of training and one week on the job.
Lonechild, 21, was sentenced to eight years in prison in September for sexual assault and unlawful confinement after pleading guilty in court.
Chodan said investigators often wait for any criminal proceedings to be completed before examining the incidents and forwarding the files to the Crown to determine if charges can be laid.
Joe Gavaghan, spokesman for Garda World Security Corp., confirmed the company's attorneys have received the documents outlining the charge, but would not say anything further.
"Because the matter is in litigation, we're not able to comment at this time," he said.
The president of the Alberta Federation of Labour said he was surprised to hear charges had been laid against an employer in this case, especially in light of the federation's ongoing fight to improve working-alone legislation.
"Given they've laid charges, it shows there is a recognition at some level in government that a problem exists," Gil McGowan said.
The essential problem in this case -- that an employee was harmed while working alone -- reinforces the need for more aggressive legislation to ensure it doesn't happen again, McGowan said.
Since it falls under Occupational Health legislation, the charge is vague, he said.
"What is the specific failure of the employer?"
The matter is expected to be heard in Calgary provincial court on Jan. 8.
Calgary Herald, Wed Nov 12, 2008
Byline: Gwendolyn Richards
EDMONTON - For 16-year-old Mitchell Tanner, last summer's full-time gig at Rona was the real deal.
"Mitchie had had jobs before, but this was his first actual job,'" said Marjorie Adams, the young man's aunt.
"He was really excited."
The Grade 10 student was working only his second shift as a foot soldier in the lumberyard when he hopped on a forklift driven by one of his friends and co-workers. The 2,300-kilogram machine, not meant to carry passengers, tipped over and crushed him.
By the time paramedics arrived , he was dead.
The teenager's death on June 7 was one of 23 workplace deaths this year, compared to 25 for this same time last year. The total number of deaths for all of 2007 was 47.
"He was just being a kid," Adams said softly, the pain evident in her voice.
Adams' husband, Kim, a longtime welder by trade, shook his head when he heard the news.
He had made his own mistakes early in his career. "He's 40-something years old; he's been doing it forever," said Adams, then paused.
"But when you're young and stupid, you just don't understand safety."
An advertising campaign launched this week is intended to drive that message home, reminding teenagers in the workforce that injuries and fatalities can be moments away.
Typically, autumn is a more hazardous time for workers, especially those in the oil and gas industry.
"Generally, activity increases when companies are trying to wrap up before winter sets in," Employment and Immigration spokesman Barrie Harrison.
"There's a lot of machinery being moved prior to frost."
The online safety campaign -- at www.bloodylucky.ca -- focuses particularly on workers between the ages of 15 and 19.
It has come under attack from critics who say the online spots, each one depicting a gory on-the-job accident that is seemingly the fault of a worker's carelessness, misses the mark.
"Accidents are not caused by one action," Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said.
"Injuries are caused by a series of poor decisions by both the employer and worker.
"Lack of training, rushed pace of work, and cutting safety corners lead to injuries -- a point completely missed by these ads."
Alberta Employment and Immigration Minister Hector Goudreau said the campaign is meant to educate and protect teenagers on the job, whom he described as "the most vulnerable" segment of the workforce.
They're also growing fast, especially in Alberta's still thriving economy.
Between 1998 and 2007, the number of 15- to 19-year-olds employed in the province grew almost 23 per cent.
In the past five years, 11 in that age group died in workplace fatalities, a number which includes two deaths in 2008; a 19-year-old oil rig worker in Provost and Mitchell Tanner.
"We want to get to young workers when they're first entering the workforce so that they understand that they're not invincible, for starters," Harrison said.
"We also want to let them know they have the right -- some would say the responsibility and the obligation -- to refuse unsafe work.
"We want to instil a culture that will stay with them for their entire working life."
The construction and construction trades industry, where approximately 10 per cent of young workers are employed, remains the most dangerous, with most accidents caused by slips, trips and falls.
"Twenty years ago, when it was make as much money as you can and damn the consequences, Alberta's construction industry's lost-time claim rate was 20 times what it is today," Harrison said.
"Today, there's much more of a feeling of, yes make as much money as you can, but it's even more important that everyone stays safe and goes home at the end of the day.
"There's no point in having a big paycheque if you're not around to enjoy it."
Workplace accident numbers overall, which are compiled by the Workers' Compensation Board, have been declining in recent years.
So far this year, about 135,500 claims have been registered with the WCB, compared to 175,297 for all of 2007 and 181,159 for 2006.
Harrison said some of the credit for the decline goes to the Alberta Construction Safety Association, which was established 20 years ago to address the problem.
Since then, the association has devoted itself to improving workplace health and safety through education and training, both on-site and in the classroom.
In 1996, about 4,500 workers went through some form of training program with the association, it's closer to 100,000 today.
That number includes high school students who may be pondering a career in construction.
The association goes into schools to make presentations, talking to students -- particularly those in Grade 12 -- about things such as hazard assessments and proper tool usage.
"We want to talk to them before they finish school so they're prepared before they get to the job site," said Robin Kotyk, the association's chief operating officer .
"It's not just about how much money am I going to make, it's about what kind of protective equipment will I need, what kind of tools will I be operating and do I need any special training, those kinds of things."
This fall, the association broadened its scope, introducing a program aimed and owners and CEOs of companies.
"It's about letting them know that if something happens on your job site, you're going to be held responsible," Kotyk said.
"It's about developing the safety culture of the organization."
Marjorie Adams just wants to know that something positive ultimately can come from her nephew's death.
"We all miss him, you know," she said.
"He was such a wonderful kid."
Edmonton Journal, Sat Nov 1 2008
Byline: Jamie Hall
Jason Reid covered his face as he heard the bone cracking and saw the leg breaking at the ankle.
The worker-safety video may be a dramatization, but it was based on a forklift mishap that really happened to a lumber-yard worker, Reid and his classmates were told.
"It kind of made me cringe right up," the Grade 12 student at Bert Church High School in Airdrie said, after watching six graphic online ads in a multimedia campaign the province released online.
Other ads showed a teen slicing his fingers while carelessly chopping parsley, one getting scalded by a deep-fryer, and another slamming to the floor after climbing a shoe-store ladder in high heels.
"Blood's not so bad for me," Reid said. "Broken bones, I find painful to watch. It seemed really lifelike, and likely -- but definitely avoidable."
That's roughly the reaction Alberta Employment officials are hoping for: a dash of shock and a dollop of realization that preventable accidents happen when workers aren't careful. The ministry's Karen MacDonald told Reid's apprenticeship training class that on an average day, six young workers suffer an injury that keeps them from going to work the next day.
Nick Strong, also in the class, recalled seeing an industrial drill break a co-worker's jaw. The 17-year-old is grateful he's learning about safety in school, but said many colleagues don't understand workplace risks.
"A lot of people just show up there and they don't have a lot of common sense. They don't have experience," he said.
The $850,000 Bloodylucky.ca campaign was ready to launch a year ago, but Conservative MLAs opposed the graphic images, so it was shelved.
Since then, the government conducted focus-group research with teens, and slightly retooled the campaign without toning down the bloody content that gives the videos a 14-A rating, government spokesman Barrie Harrison said. Viewers aged 15 and 16 said they couldn't believe the scenarios were realistic -- and then were shocked when told they had actually happened, Harrison said.
Older teens, meanwhile, often have more job experience and understand how real the risks are, he said.
Governments from Australia to Ontario and Quebec have launched similar TV campaigns designed to grab viewers' attention.
Gil McGowan of the Alberta Federation of Labour said the ads unfairly depict young workers as stupid, and pay little attention to the employer's responsibilities.
Calgary Herald, Thurs Oct 30 2008
Byline: Jason Markusoff
New Government Safety Ads Fall Flat
- New, gory health and safety ads from the Alberta government aimed at young workers strike the wrong chord with workers. The new, web-only, ads are designed to use graphic blood and gore to shock young workers into working safely. Unfortunately, the ads send a message that young workers are "stupid" and that is what causes accidents. The AFL strongly criticized the ads and pointed to a similar campaign in Ontario for how to do it right. Read the criticism and see the ads ...
The Moral of the Story...
- Is that arts, media and politics always mix. This year's Parkland Fall Conference, running November 14-16 at the UofA campus, examines the issue of culture, media and politics and how the language we use affects the shape of our society. The Conference will look at framing, myths and metaphors and how they are used to shape political realities. Speakers include Tariq Ali, Murray Dobbin, CBC's Nora Young and many others.
Unions and Coops - Building Together
- Unhappy at work? Try firing the boss. Worker Coops are a viable alternative to traditional workplace ownership, and one unions are increasingly looking to as possible ways to save jobs and improve working conditions. A one-day workshop on November 12 in Winnipeg, hosted by the Western Labour-Worker Coop Council, explores how the labour and coop movements can work together more closely to develop more strong worker-centred workplaces.
An Educated Worker is a Powerful Worker
- The latest AFL/CLC Annual Jasper School is fast approaching. With 21 courses being offered over two weeks, there is something for every activist looking for an advantage with their employer. From Collective Bargaining to Advanced Health and Safety, the School promises to be chock full of both learning and socializing. The School is open to affiliates of the AFL. Interested students should contact their local union about attending.
Check out the New Digs!!
- The AFL has re-located to new, more centrally located offices in Edmonton. We recently hauled all our stuff to a new downtown location, located on 101 Street just south of 107 Avenue. The address might be new, but all our other contact information remains the same.
National Boycott of Petro-Canada
The Canadian Labour Congress has officially declared a National Consumer Boycott of Petro-Canada. 260 workers, members of CEP Local 175, at the Petro-Canada refinery in Montreal have been locked out for almost a year - since November 17, 2007.
The CLC is asking Canadians to refuse to fill up at Petro-Canada stations and to inform the company you will not be patronizing its stations until it settles a fair deal with its workers.
December 6: Talking about Violence Against Women
The Alberta Federation of Labour Women's Committee is hosting a one-day deliberative dialogue on the impact of violence against women on our work and union roles as well as its impact on our communities and within society.
Guest speakers include Jan Reimer, Executive Director of Alberta Council of Women's Shelters and Elisabeth Ballermann, President of Health Sciences Association of Alberta.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
ATA Offices, Barnett House
11010 - 142 Street NW, Edmonton
9:00 am to 4:00 pm
Registration Fee: $80.00 (Register by Nov. 17)
Did you know ...
Inequality in Canada
- Inequality in Canada has "increased rapidly in the past 10 years".
- Canada now ranks 18 out of 30 OECD countries in income equality, below Sweden, Germany, France and even Hungary.
- Canada spends less on unemployment insurance and family benefits than most OECD countries.
- The reason for growing inequality is the rich are getting richer, leaving most Canadians behind.
Source: OECD (2008), "Growing Unequal: Income Distribution and Poverty in OECD Countries"
A labour group is giving Alberta's video campaign aimed at reducing injuries among young workers the thumbs down.
The $850,000 campaign features six graphic videos of young workers getting hurt on the job, including a grocery clerk cutting off his fingers in a slicing machine.
The Alberta Federation of Labour says the videos send the message that workers are solely responsible for such injuries. President Gil McGowan says the videos should also emphasize that managers must ensure employees are properly trained and supervised.
Edmonton Sun Online, Thurs Oct 30 2008
EDMONTON - A labour group is giving Alberta's gory video campaign aimed at reducing injuries among young workers the thumbs down.
The $850,000 government campaign features six graphic videos of young workers getting hurt on the job, including a grocery clerk cutting off his fingers in a slicing machine, complete with lots of fake blood.
The Alberta Federation of Labour said Wednesday that it supports using edgy videos to reach young people, but it is wrong to send the message that workers are solely responsible for such injuries.
The videos should also emphasize that managers must ensure that employees are properly trained and supervised, and that young people must understand that they have the legal right to refuse unsafe work.
"Injuries are caused by a series of poor decisions by both the employer and worker," federation president Gil McGowan said. "Lack of training, rushed pace of work and cutting safety corners lead to injuries - a point completely missed by these ads."
In Alberta, young people make up 17 per cent of the work force but account for almost one-quarter of disabled injury claims.
McGowan said Ontario has done a better job of reaching out to young workers because its ads highlight how employer decisions and worker decisions combine to cause accidents.
In one Ontario ad, a dead electrical worker rises from his coffin to proclaim "Accident? What are you talking about? Your company never fully trained me to work on high voltage wires." The corpse also regrets not using his safety equipment.
"The Ontario campaign is much more effective because it tries to convey a full message about how to prevent accidents. Alberta should have adopted their approach," he said.
The Ontario ads can be seen at www.prevent-it.ca.
The Institute for Work and Health has found that only about one in five employees in Canada receives safety training during the first year with a new employer.
More than 50,000 workers under the age of 24 lost time from work after being injured on the job in 2006, according to the Association of Workers' Compensation Boards of Canada. Another 51 died at work.
The real injury numbers are higher because many mishaps go unreported, experts say.
660News, Wed Oct 29 2008
The Alberta government released a set of web-only safety ads today aimed at young workers. The ads are graphic and gory and attempt to highlight dangers common in youth workplaces. After reviewing the ads, the AFL responded by saying they are a tragic missed opportunity.
"Edgy ads aimed at youth is a good idea, one long overdue," says AFL President Gil McGowan. "However, Alberta has botched the concept by narrowing the message too much."
"The core message of the six ads is that young workers shouldn't be 'stupid', and that is the wrong message."
McGowan points out that in the ads, the young worker does something stupid to cause the accident. In four of the ads, there is no hint of employers' or others' errors leading to the accident - it is just poor decisions by the worker. The other two imply other co-workers were equally to blame. None of the ads look at employer actions or systemic shortcomings in the workplace, which are the things more likely to cause accidents. "Accidents are not caused by one action. Injuries are caused by a series of poor decisions by both the employer and worker. Lack of training, rushed pace of work, and cutting safety corners lead to injuries - a point completely missed by these ads."
McGowan contrasts the Alberta ads to Ontario's attempt to reach out to young workers. The Ontario website also offers graphic ads of workplace accidents. Ads also have been distributed via e-mails as a viral campaign. However, the Ontario ads try to highlight how employer decisions AND worker decisions combined to cause the accident. In one Ontario ad distributed by e-mail (available from the AFL on request), a dead electrical worker rises from his coffin to proclaim "Accident? What are you talking ab out? Your company never fully trained me to work on high voltage wires." The corpse also regrets not using his safety equipment.
"The Ontario campaign is much more effective because it tries to convey a full message about how to prevent accidents. Alberta should have adopted their approach."
McGowan says the ads and accompanying website should be telling young workers what their rights are. "This government is allergic to telling workers they have rights."
The website offers questions workers should ask their employer and some tips for how to prevent the accidents depicted in the ads, but nothing about what a worker can actively do to prevent it happening to them. "The website fails to offer the tools young workers need to stay safe."
"Gore and blood might be appropriate to shock us just before Halloween, but it is not enough to make sure our young workers make it home safely. The government has failed young workers yet again," McGowan concludes.
For more information call:
Gil McGowan, AFL President @ 780.483-3021 (office) or 780.218-9888 (cell)
An inquiry into the death of a man killed while working on a farm two years ago will open today -- a hearing labour officials hope will highlight the "deeply flawed" workplace safety legislation in the province.
The inquiry -- scheduled for two days in Okotoks -- will examine the events surrounding the death of Kevan Chandler, who was buried under grain on June 18, 2006, while working at Tongue Creek Feeders in High River.
At the time, Chandler's widow, Lorna, wrote an open letter to Premier Ralph Klein asking to change workplace legislation to include farms, saying safety rules would have saved her husband's life.
While the aim of fatality inquiries is for a judge to make recommendations to prevent similar incidents, the
Alberta Federation of Labour hopes it will bring about substantive changes to farm worker safety in Alberta.
"Alberta is still in the 19th century when it comes to workplace rights for farm workers," federation president Gil McGowan said Tuesday.
"We're hoping the inquiry will find that the system for ensuring workplace health and safety for farmers is deeply flawed."
According to the Alberta Farm Safety Centre, farmers are five times more likely to die from a work-related incident than workers in all other industries.
Last year 12 people died in such incidents -- eight fewer than in 2006, when Chandler was killed.
But under current provincial legislation, farming-related deaths and injuries do not fall under workplace health and safety legislation, following an exemption made to the Occupational Health and Safety Act in 1977.
The farm safety co-ordinator for Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development said the legislation exempts any primary agriculture, such as raising livestock or crops.
However, value-added farm industries -- nurseries, greenhouses and mushroom farms, for example -- are included, Laurel Aitken said.
It's a difficult area for the safety act to cover because the farm is sometimes a combination of a workplace and a home.
"No one comes into your home and says, 'Why are you using the ladder you did to clean out the eavestroughs?' " she said. "It's a very grey area in terms of where does the home end and the farm start."
McGowan, however, said there is no excuse for why people like Chandler don't have the same rights and protections as workers in other industries.
"It's not clear that extending workplace safety to farm workers would have saved Kevan's life, but it may have," he said.
The fact that Chandler's death has led to a fatality inquiry is largely owed to work done by his widow, said McGowan.
"She refused to let the issue die," he said.
Still, said Liberal MLA David Swann, the inquiry is coming more than two years after Chandler died.
Swann, who has spoken out often about the discrepancy in workplace safety legislation when it comes to farm workers, said an inquiry should be held for every farming-related death.
In discussions with Albertans, he said, people ask if the province ensures healthy, equal working conditions for all workers in the province.
"We have to say no. There is a unique experience for farm workers in this province," he said.
Calgary Herald, Wed Oct 22 2008
Byline: Gwendolyn Richards
FORT MCMURRAY, Alta (Canadan OH&S News) -- A backhoe operator has drowned in an accident on September 3 at a tailings pond at Canadian Natural Resources Ltd's (CNRL) Horizon Oil Sands Project site in Alberta.
At around noon, Richard Boyd Boughner was operating a Caterpillar 235 floating excavator approximately five metres from the shore of the tailings pond when the backhoe flipped onto the operator's side and fell into the pond, reports Barrie Harrison, a spokesman for Alberta Employment and Immigration. The backhoe then sank to a depth of about three metres. Boughner, a 47-year-old from Love, Saskatchewan, was a contract worker employed by Clayton Construction Co Ltd of Lloydminster, Saskatchewan.
Workers from CNRL's emergency response team were on the site - north of Fort McMurray - within twenty minutes of the incident, says Peter Janson, vice-president of engineering integration for the project. "Luckily, we had some divers at site on some other work, and we were able to redeploy them and basically get them to the scene," he says. The CNRL team was joined by RCMP officers, and the body of Boughner was recovered at 1:40 pm.
An RCMP release notes that "equipment upsetting" may have been involved in the accident, but Harrison says that the cause of the accident has not yet been determined. Referring to the investigation, Harrison says, "I don't think [that any conclusions can be drawn] until they can remove the machinery, do tests, along with our regular processes of interviewing any witnesses and other employees.... It could be a while before we determine the cause." For its part, CNRL is conducting its own parallel investigation, Janson adds.
The site where the accident took place is once again operational, says Janson. The backhoe itself remains in the pond as of press time as CNRL engineers work on an extraction strategy.
This tragedy comes sixteen months after two serious incidents at the Horizon site involving the collapse of the roof structure at an oil tank erection site. The first of these accidents, on April 24, 2007, claimed the lives of two Chinese temporary workers and injured four others (COHSN, May 7, 2007). On May 12, 2007, the second roof structure collapsed, although no workers were injured as the area was still under a stop work order from the previous accident.
Janson maintains that the accidents are unrelated, citing the vast separation between the two projects in both scope of work and distance (the sites are roughly five kilometres apart).
While an oh&s report on last year's accident has been completed, says Harrison, "Alberta's crown prosecutors are currently reviewing the file to determine whether charges are warranted." Harrison notes that the report will not be released until that decision is made.
Alex Pannu, Director of Public Affairs for the Christian Labour Association of Canada, a union representing many workers on the Horizon site, says that they "will work with the company and Alberta Occupational Health & Safety on the investigation, and certainly if there's anything that can be improved, we'll be there with our health and safety committee to look into that." Pannu, however, notes that as a contract worker, Boughner himself was not a union member.
Incident highlights need for oversight: AFL
For Jason Foster, director of policy analysis at the Alberta Federation of Labour, this latest incident highlights the need for greater oversight by Alberta Employment and Immigration on the Horizon site.
Says Foster, "They allow far too much self-enforcement and self-monitoring of safety procedures, and clearly, at least on this site, it doesn't seem like that's working."
The Horizons Oil Sands Project is located 70 km north of Fort McMurray, and is anticipated to produce up to 500,000 barrels of synthetic crude oil per day when the project reaches full capacity.
Canadian OH&S News, Sept 16, 2008
Many of Canada's streets-including some in Toronto and Calgary-are lined not with gold, but with asbestos. The Alberta Federation of Labour doesn't like it. The labor union has accused the city government of Calgary in particular of treating the discovery of an asbestos-contaminated asphalt roadway far too casually. Calling asbestos "one of the worst workplace killers in Canada," AFL President Gil McGowan has noted that Canada's Occupational Health and Safety Code requires measures for both worker and public safety in circumstances where asbestos may be released. McGowan has stressed that asbestos exposure can cause serious disease, including "mesothelioma, a malignant cancer whose only known cause is exposure to asbestos." The labor president encouraged Calgary to take the same precautions used by Toronto, where the streets are also paved with asbestos: require road construction workers to wear hazmat suits, keep down the dust, and inform citizens of the risks and necessary safety measures. McGowan also urged that future paving projects should be asbestos-free.
Mesotheliama News, Dallas, Texas, July 29, 2008