New CCPA study: Federal cuts reduce number of health and safety inspectors

A new Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives study entitled Waiting to Happen: Why we need major changes to the health and safety regime in federally regulated workplaces was released today. The study reveals that the health and safety of over a million workers in the federal government and other federally-regulated workplaces is at risk. 

In the study, CCPA Research Associate John Anderson examines occupational health and safety developments between 2007 and 2012 in sectors under federal jurisdiction, including banking, communications, broadcasting, postal services, road, air, rail and water transport, as well as the federal government. In 2012, almost 1.2 million employees worked in the federally regulated sector. 

The study reveals some disturbing numbers about health and safety in these workplaces:

  • In 10 years the number of health and safety inspectors on the job has dropped by over 50 per cent.
  • From 151 inspectors in 2005, figures obtained by PSAC show no more than 67 working as of April, 2015.
  • Between 2002 and 2013, 684 employees died as a result of workplace injury.
  • There were nearly 21,000 disabling injuries in the federally regulated sector in 2012 alone.

Amendments to the Canada Labour Code hidden in the 2013 budget bill that reduced the powers of health and safety inspectors and critically weakened the definition of workplace “danger” which can be used by employees to refuse unsafe work have also put workers at risk.

The study concludes with several recommendations to restore and improve the health and safety regulation of businesses and employers under federal jurisdiction, including:

  • Repealing the 2013 changes to the Canada Labour Code and increasing inspector staffing levels;
  • Conducting regular field inspections, particularly in high-risk workplaces;
  • Improving data collecting and making it more transparent;
  • Developing a strategy for workplace safety on First Nations reserves;
  • Reinstating fire inspectors; and
  • Covering all Parliament Hill employees under federal health and safety regulation.