Ottawa’s budget cuts are undermining the health and safety of federally regulated workplaces, a new study suggests.
The report, released Sept. 30 by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, says a lack of resources, including funding and safety inspection staff, are putting the 1.2 million workers under the federal government's employ at risk.
In 2005, for instance, there were 151 inspectors overseeing health and safety in federally regulated sectors (such as banking, communications, broadcasting, postal, transportation and government). But according to the Public Service Alliance of Canada (the union representing federal workers), that number has dropped significantly, and in April of this year there were only 67 inspectors.
“The overall situation is a recipe for both potential dangerous occupational health and safety issues and injuries,” said John Anderson, the researcher who conducted the study. “Inspection is absent or so highly limited it cannot create the safe workplace environment that is surely everybody’s goal and wish.”
According to the study, amendments to the Canada Labour Code in 2013’s budget bill reduced the power of health and safety inspectors and weakened the definition of “danger” in the workplace — the provision that allows employees to refuse unsafe work.
Compared to the provinces, federal workplaces are lagging behind in safety. The study noted disabling injury rates in the provinces declined by 46 per cent from 2002 to 2012, whereas the federal rate dropped only 12 per cent. In 2012, there were almost 21,000 disabling injuries in federal workplaces and 684 deaths between 2002 and 2013.
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