Last fall, Alberta's Employment and Immigration department posted online the workplace injury and fatality data for more than 140,000 employers insured by the Workers' Compensation Board - Alberta (WCB). The release of this information was the first of its kind in Canada. It took months to coordinate and involved several dedicated teams.
In August 2010, the department released the template it would be using, giving employers time to prepare for the data release. The injury and fatality information was posted at the end of September. Available information includes lost-time claims (claims for injuries or diseases that cause workers to take time away from work) and the lost time claim rate, which is the probability or risk of injury or disease to a worker during a one-year period. This rate is calculated by dividing the number of lost-time claims by the estimated number of full-time workers and multiplying the result by 100.
Also posted are the number of fatalities on a worksite and whether that company has a Certificate of Recognition (COR). A COR recognizes employers who have developed a health and safety management system and meet established standards.
In addition to individual employer data, prospective employees are also able to see how employers compare to others in the same industry sector.
Delivering on the Government of Alberta's promise to post the information involved dozens of staff from the WCB, Data Development and Evaluation (DDE), Information Management and Application Support (IMAS), Occupational Health and Safety (OHS), the OHS Contact Centre and the department's communications branch.
"The employer records release is one of the most challenging projects the department has undertaken," said Diane Paul, a senior manager with DDE who helped coordinate the employer records release. "The publishing of these employer records became a reality only after months of dedicated work on the part of numerous WCB and department staff."
DDE reviewed tens of thousands of files to analyze, interpret, load onto a template and test. The branch was also responsible for compiling the usage considerations document and other reports that accompanied the record release. As well, there were ongoing discussions with the WCB to ensure the data in the templates was accurate.
IMAS built the database to house the information and found ways to avoid a crash if heavy traffic overloaded the system. Days before the release, the team loaded more than 700 PDF files onto dozens of memory sticks for the media's use.
While DDE and IMAS focused on the numbers, the department's Communications branch drafted news releases, key messages, speaking notes and a province-wide advertising campaign. The branch also coordinated the two media announcements: the template release on August 31 and the September 30 media event.
At the OHS Contact Centre, phones were programmed to fast-track calls and extra staff was brought in to manage the expected deluge of calls. OHS staff was also prepared to answer questions from the public. Regional OHS management and DDE are still in regular contact to ensure the public's concerns are addressed.
More OHS officers are being added over the next three years and work is proceeding on a number of focused inspection safety programs. Programs include the employer injury and illness prevention program, commercial construction program, health care compliance strategy, and the residential construction program.
The department knows that the economy is going to rebound, and a more robust economy means more companies hiring. It wants to make sure that potential and current employees have a safe work environment.
Brent McEwan is the executive director of Occupational Health and Safety with Alberta Employment and Immigration. He has held numerous senior positions with the Government of Alberta. The records can be viewed online at: employment.alberta.ca/employerrecords.