May was a busy month for Alberta's Occupational Health and Safety ("OHS") regulator.

Alberta, Employment, Immigration and Industry (AEII), formerly Alberta Human Resources and Employment, reported the province's 2006 fatality and injury rate statistics, a significant prosecution and a legislative change to the OHS Code.

According to an AEII press release, 2006 saw a decrease in the fatality and lost-time claim rates in Alberta. The number of work-related fatalities decreased from 143 in 2005 to 124 in 2006. Of the 124 workrelated fatalities in 2006, 33 were motor vehicle incidents, 27 were on-the-job deaths, and 64 were attributed to occupational diseases.

As the working population in Alberta continued to rise in 2006, the fatality rate fell to 78 fatalities per million person years, the lowest fatality rate since 1991. The provincial lost-time claim rate for 2006 was down from 2.41 per 100 person years in 2005 to 2.35 per 100 person years - the sixth straight year this rate has dropped. This steady decrease appears to be inversely proportional to the steady increase in the disabling injury rate, a new measure that also includes claims submitted in which employees are able to perform modified duties to accommodate their injuries, enabling them to remain in the workplace and not lose any time from work.

On May 3, 2007, in Edmonton, a numbered company operating as DJZ's Welding was fined a whopping $350,000 after pleading guilty to an OHSA charge that resulted from the death of a worker. More specifically, the charge was related to allowing hot work to be performed where a flammable substance could be present. On September 19, 2003, a worker was fatally injured when an explosion occurred, which threw him against the wall of the tank that he was welding. The $350,000 sentence is a clear indication that AEII is committed to continuing to increase fines for employers and individuals who contravene the OHSA.

In other news, Part 38 of the OHS Code - Residential Roofing - expired on April 30, 2007. The Director of Inspection has approved a grace period to continue the use of slide guards until October 31, 2007. During this grace period, OHS Officers will point out current practices to roofers that may violate the OHS Code beginning on November 1, 2007.