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Fair-Weather Safety

Workplace fatalities in Alberta increased by 15% last year, despite the high levels of unemployment in the province, says Monday's article in the Herald.

We are used to seeing safety incidents rise during the boom times in Alberta, because there's more people working, and in higher-risk industries, like construction. But what could be causing this increase in safety incidents during a recession?

Many companies will swear allegiance to safety when new business is easy to reel in, and there's plenty of money to fund HSE programs. But sometimes, this loyalty evaporates when these same companies are fighting for scraps. I've seen QHSE departments decimated during this recent recession. In an effort to stay afloat, companies are slashing all salaries and expenses that aren't absolutely necessary to sell product or services. While the effects of this may not be felt immediately (besides by those laid off), it becomes apparent as corners are cut without any oversight and inevitably, safety incidents begin to rise. As Dr. Swann, Alberta's Liberal Leader, says perhaps "We've got a culture that doesn't really reinforce safety first".

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