Mandatory training and certification needed to save lives, says AFL
EDMONTON, Feb. 19 /CNW/ - An increase in the number of Occupational
Health and Safety (OHS) inspections at worksites where forklifts are
used has been welcomed by the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), but
the labour group says much more must be done to save lives.
"If the government was really committed to promoting forklift-related
safety, it would follow the lead of Manitoba and institute a mandatory
system for training and certification of forklift operators," says Gil
McGowan, president of the AFL, which represents 140,000 workers.
"Forklifts are not toys, they are dangerous pieces of heavy industrial
equipment and they need to be treated by employers and governments like
other pieces of heavy equipment. Drivers of cars, trucks, cranes,
bulldozers and other heavy equipment are required to undergo
equipment-specific training and prove their competency through testing,
but in Alberta, anyone can get behind the wheel of a forklift and start
driving without training and without testing," says McGowan.
This lack of training explains why there are more injuries and
fatalities related to forklifts than other pieces of heavy equipment.
While increasing inspections will help, it will not solve the problems
created by the absence of government enforced standards for training
"Inspections by themselves aren't the answer because inspectors won't be
able to fine or ticket employers for inadequate training, because there
are no laws in Alberta under which to charge them. As a result, the
inspection blitz will be much less useful than it might otherwise be,"
In 2008, 16-year-old Mitchell Tanner died on his second day on the job
while on a forklift at a Rona store in St. Albert. An AFL campaign at
that time led the creation of a joint government, industry and labour
panel to look into the issue of forklift safety. It drafted a set of
guidelines which have yet to be released: but even once they are
released, the new guidelines will be voluntary, not mandatory.
"Voluntary guidelines are not enough. We can't simply hope that
employers will do the right thing. Proper training and certification
have to be mandatory," says McGowan. "I know Conservatives are
reluctant to get behind regulation for ideological reasons. But
ideology should not be allowed to trump safety or common sense."
"Random inspection probably would not have saved Mitchell," concluded
McGowan. "But real training to standards set and enforced by the
government could probably have made a difference. The government still
has an opportunity to do better by introducing mandatory training and
certification. Unless Alberta follows Manitoba's example, people will
continue to be injured and killed unnecessarily on forklifts in
SOURCE Alberta Federation of Labour
For further information:
Gil McGowan,President, Alberta Federation of Labour @ 780-218-9888 (cell)