A few weeks back, the Alberta government announced the winners of its annual Work Safe student video contest. According to MLA Matt Jeneroux:
The Work Safe Alberta student video contest is a great way for young Albertans to think about workplace health and safety. Young workers can have an invincible mentality while on the job, and it’s important to understand both the real dangers and the resources available to them.
To be fair to the students, the quality of the videos is pretty high. The recurring difficulty with these videos is that each new batch tends to blame the worker for his or her injuries. This may well reflect the instructions the students were given and/or the selection criteria used by the government.
While it is true that workers need to be mindful of potential dangers, the videos largely ignore the obligation of employers to identify and control hazards (although the second place video does contain a nod in this direction). The videos also tend to show worker injuries as the result of workers making stupid choices.
I appreciate that these videos aren’t the final word on workplace safety. Yet their tendency to blame the victim largely accords with the government’s own safety promotions efforts.
Is rewarding students for internalizing blame for workplace injuries really in the public interest? Or is it just in the interests of a government that does a poor job of injury prevention and the interests of employers who organize work unsafely?
Asking students to grapple with those kinds of questions would make a much more valuable contribution to young people’s understanding of workplace safety in Alberta.
-- Bob Barnetson