An Alberta workers’ organization alleges the province is trying to move the issue of fatal farm injuries "off the public radar" by halting its annual releases of specific farm fatality data.
The province said last week that "due to changes in farm fatality reporting, we will no longer be posting specific statistics on farming fatalities for 2011 and on."
Those searching for information on work-related farm deaths are told on the province’s agriculture department website that they should contact Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting (CAIR).
CAIR’s latest data available is only from 2005, said Nancy Furlong, secretary treasurer of the Alberta Federation of Labour, in a release Monday.
"It is the government’s duty to protect workers, but also to report their deaths and injuries," she said. "Death and injury prevention requires knowledge of the frequency and nature of the incidents."
Alberta, the AFL said, "remains the only province where farm workers are excluded from occupational health and safety laws, as well as legislation governing hours of work and overtime, statutory holidays, vacation pay, the right to refuse unsafe work, being informed of work-related dangers and compensation if they are injured on the job."
"This decision to stop reporting the number and nature of farm deaths helps to hide the real problem — Alberta’s deplorable lack of workplace protection for farms workers in the province," Furlong said.
The province’s lists of work-related farm fatalities in previous years have publicly provided the gender and age of each victim, the date of death, the cause and a few specific details.
In 2010, for example, the province saw 22 work-related deaths, of which 19 were males, three were children and 12 were age 60 or over.
As an example of the level of detail provided, the province’s 2010 list describes the death of a 23-year-old man on Nov. 6 from "blunt force trauma to chest."
The "victim was working on (the) hydraulic system of a skid-steer digger when the hydraulics failed and the victim was pinned between (the) digger arm and body of the machine," the list states.
The 2010 number of fatalities was up significantly from 13 in 2009 and one less than the 23 cases reported in 2008.