Issues for Action: Occupational Injury
Migrant workers are particularly at risk of sustaining occupational injuries due to their precarious citizenship status. Migrant workers who are injured on the job also often struggle to access medical treatment and injury compensation.
Approximately 1 in 5 Alberta workers is injured on the job each year. Of these 408,000 injured workers, 170,000 will be injured seriously enough to require time off from work or modified job duties.
This high level of occupational injury is, in part, the result of wide-spread employer non-compliance with occupational health and safety (OHS) rules and inadequate government enforcement.
Alberta has granted workers three safety rights: the right to know about hazards, the right to participate in controlling hazards, and the right to refuse unsafe work. Workers are often reluctant to even ask for OHS information at work due to fear of (illegal) employer retaliation.
Migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to occupational injury because their residency in the country is directly or indirectly linked to their employer. Asking about health and safety issues or filing a complaint about unsafe work can result in the worker being terminated and potentially returned to their country of origin.
Injured workers are generally able to access wage-loss and medical-aid benefits through provincial and territorial workers’ compensation systems. Migrant workers often face barriers to filing claims and receiving benefits, particularly if they are returned to their country of origin.
- Overview of occupational health and safety laws in Alberta: https://www.alberta.ca/ohs-act-regulation-code.aspx
- Refusing unsafe work in Alberta: https://www.alberta.ca/refuse-dangerous-work.aspx
- OHS information and complaints: https://www.alberta.ca/ohs-complaints-incidents.aspx
- Making a workers’ compensation claim for an occupational injury: https://www.wcb.ab.ca/claims/
- Research on workplace injury in Alberta: https://www.parklandinstitute.ca/safer_by_design
- Alberta Workers’ Health Centre: http://workershealthcentre.ca
- Calgary Workers’ Resource Centre: http://www.helpwrc.org
- More inspections and meaningful penalties: Alberta’s government should increase the number of provincial OHS inspectors and require inspectors to sanction employers who do not comply with OHS rules in order to reduce the overall level of workplace injury.
- Targeted inspections: Alberta’s government should target industries and employers who employ migrant workers for additional OHS inspections in order to increase employer compliance with OHS rules while reducing the need for migrant workers to file OHS complaints in order to be safe.
- Targeted education: Alberta should fund the delivery of OHS education designed to address the unique needs of migrant workers by community groups that already have relationships of trust with migrant workers.
- Federal sanctions: The federal government should suspend access to foreign workers for employers with a history of noncompliance with provincial employment laws.