BY RUSSELL HIXSON - Alberta's rate of workplace injuries has reached an all-time low.
Workers' Compensation Board (WCB) records show that the rate of Alberta workers' lost-time claim (LTC) rate was a record low in 2013.
"In my opinion, we have something to be very proud of, the improvement in the injury and death rates is a wonderful thing," said executive director of Edmonton Construction Association John McNicoll.
"There are families everywhere, who would cheer and thank us if they knew how their fathers, mothers and children had been protected by these decisions. And I hope those in leadership can really feel their encouragement to continue in diligence for safety."
Numbers from the WCB show the loss claim rate per 100-person years worked has dropped from a high of 3.46 in 1994 to 1.34 last year.
The rate has seen a steady decline over the decades, with the next lowest year being 2012 with a rate of 1.40.
According to the Alberta Construction Association, there were 188 workplace fatalities in 2013.
More than half of the fatalities resulted from occupational disease.
In some cases, the worker may have been exposed to the disease decades ago.
"I'm pleased to see a steady improvement in workplace safety," said Alberta Minister of Jobs Kyle Fawcett in a release.
"The hard work of industry, employers, workers, safety associations and government is paying off. That said, there are still far too many workplace deaths. I want all Alberta workers to get home safely at the end of the day."
McNicoll explained that it has taken many years for safety attitudes in the construction industry to shift, but he is encouraged by the progress.
He attributed part of the progress to Alberta's robust economy, enabling profitable companies to make safety funding decisions.
He noted that companies with tiny margins can often be tempted to cut safety spending.
But, McNicoll feels companies over time have come to value safety expenditures far more than in the past.
"The culture has changed," he said.
While the rate of injury went down, the number of disabling injury claims rose slightly as Alberta's workforce grew by 2.9 per cent to 2.1 million.
In 2013 there were 54,140 disabling injury claims, the combination of lost-time claims and modified work claims, an increase of two per cent from 53,081 claims in 2012.
The Alberta Construction Association attributed this to the increase in the work force.
The disabling injury rate (DIR) dropped in some of Alberta's key sectors last year, including construction, manufacturing, and oil and gas development.
The DIR combines information on workers, who couldn't work because of their injury, or had their duties modified due to workplace injury or disease.