Thursday, August 23, 2012

Farm worker fatalities in Alberta

The issue of farm worker safety has hit the news once again. There is the usual stuff about Alberta being the only jurisdiction to deny farm workers basic safety rights and that farm injury stats are skewed through the exclusion of disease and motor-vehicle accidents.

One of the more interesting developments is that Alberta Agriculture indicated two weeks ago that is no longer reporting its count of annual farm worker fatalities. There was no real explanation for this change when it happened--just a quiet line on the page that the reports normally reside on saying 2011 data would not be available due to concerns about the statistics. Viewers were then directed to the Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting website (which had no contemporary data).

Predictably, organized labour thought this looked suspicious and complained. The government then told Canadian Press:

Alberta Agriculture said Monday it is reviewing how it publishes information about farmworker deaths and injuries with an eye to protecting the privacy of victims and their families.
Stuart Elson, a ministry spokesman, said updated statistics could be available later this week.
According to FFWD:
“Some of the information we provided, it was providing a little bit too much detail in terms of identifying victims and putting some additional hardship on the families,” says Elson. He says 16 people died while working on Alberta farms in 2011; down from the 22 reported in 2010 but about average for the past decade.

On August 20th (when the heat started), the government updated the website to say:
We are currently in the process of updating statistical information for Alberta Farm Related Fatalities. Updated information will be available shortly.

Perhaps this was simply a roll-out error for a well intentioned change to protect the privacy of families affected by farm-work fatalities. If that is the case, that seems like an awfully big goof-up on a hot-button issue that at least two ministries are looking into. It will be interesting what the government says when it re-releases farm worker fatality stats.

-- Bob Barnetson

No comments:

Post a Comment