Federal government undermining workplace safety: study

April 27, 2010

OTTAWA—On the eve of the National Day of Mourning for workers killed on the job, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) is releasing two studies highlighting the need for improved health and safety enforcement and regulation.

According to Success is No Accident, by CCPA Research Associate David Macdonald, federal underfunding and understaffing of safety inspectors are putting federal jurisdiction employees in harm’s way.

The rate of disabling injuries in federally regulated workplaces increased by 5% between 2002 and 2007 while the provinces have managed to cut their disabling workplace injuries by an average of 25% over the same time frame.

“The freezing of departmental budgets in the 2010 federal budget is already having tangible effects in an inability to improve safety in the workplace” says Macdonald.   “With its budget frozen, HRSDC has no additional resources to beef up inspections and keep Canadians safe.  Workers, among others, will pay the price for indiscriminate budget freezes.”

There aren’t nearly enough federal inspectors to make the number of recommended visits to very high and high risk worksites. In 2006-07, only 16% of the very high risk workplaces received the requisite two visits a year and only 10% of high risk workplaces received their requisite one visit.

“Many provinces have made concerted efforts to reduce workplace injuries by targeting high risk workplaces and hiring substantially more inspectors,” explains Macdonald. “Unfortunately for federal jurisdiction workers—particularly those working in trucking, at Canada Post or on reserves—HRSDC continues to provide its inspectors with inadequate support.”

The study concludes with several recommendations for improving federal workplace safety.

Canada’s Regulatory Obstacle Course, CCPA Senior Economist Marc Lee’s analysis of the federal government’s new Cabinet Directive on Streamlining Regulation (CDSR), suggests that the government’s poor record on workplace safety is not an isolated case but may reflect an across-the-board weakening of the federal regulatory process.

“The new federal approach to regulation demands compelling evidence of harm before action can be taken and puts health, safety, and environmental concerns at risk,” says Lee. “The CDSR places a ‘chill’ over the development of new public interest regulation, and will greatly water down any new measures that do get considered.”


Success is No Accident: Declining Workplace Safety Among Federal Jurisdiction Employers and Canada’s Regulatory Obstacle Course are available on the CCPA website: http://policyalternatives.ca

For more information contact Kerri-Anne Finn, CCPA Senior Communications Officer, at 613-563-1341 x306.