Shameful Workplace Injury Increase at Sunshine Village

Latest government statistics indicate that lost-time workplace accidents at Sunshine Village have doubled.  It’s a shocking and very worrying trend, but is anyone doing anything about it?

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Lost-Time Claim (LTC) workplace injuries at Sunshine Village doubled in 2011 according to the Government of Alberta website that tracks the rate at which Alberta employers injure their workers.  In 2010 the number of claims was seven (7).  In 2011 that number leaped to fourteen (14).  That’s an unacceptable increase.

Last year Sunshine Village was solely responsible for over 25% of all lost-time workplace accidents for the entire Alberta ski resort and gondola industry.  And that’s in an industry that already has a way-above-average rate of claims.  During the same period the company had considerably more than double the LTC rate for all employers in all Alberta industries. And that is in a province with one of the worst workplace safety records in Canada.  Is anyone at Work Safe Alberta paying attention?

It’s the second year in a row that Sunshine Village’s LTC rate has dramatically increased over the year before, which is a solid indication that workplace safety trends at Sunshine Village may be spiraling out of control and going consistently in the wrong direction.  2011 is a 5-year high.  That can only be bad for workers and it’s a shameful statistic for a company that only two years ago hyped its intention to take all steps possible to avoid another workplace fatality.

The rapid rise in lost-time claims is only the tip of the iceberg because many of Sunshine Village’s workplace accidents never get reported or recorded in the government statistics. Injured workers are given “modified work” which keeps them on the payroll and avoids triggering a lost-time claim.  This serves to keep the true workplace injury rate out of the public view, a fact that serves the PR spin-machine of the both employer and the government.

If the Government of Alberta was truly transparent about workplace safety and injury rates in the province, it would require companies like Sunshine Village to disclose and report not just lost-time claims but also incidents resulting in modified work, treatment and return to work and close-calls.  The guaranteed reality is that even though there were 14 lost-time claims reported for Sunshine Village in 2011, many more employees were injured on the job there last year.

Sunshine Village received a Certificate of Recognition in 2008. This qualifies the company for government financial incentives but more importantly it is supposed to make the workplace safer for employees.  It takes more than a piece of paper and a rubber stamp to make that happen.  Sunshine Village has always claimed that it makes workplace safety a “top priority”.  These statistics show that so-called management priority to be an epic management failure.  When it comes to workplace safety, Sunshine Village just plain sucks !

Workers have a basic right to safe and healthy workplaces.  It is up to the government to make certain that right is upheld.  There are no excuses.  The Government of Alberta has recently promised to review the COR status of employers with a poor safety performance.  This pitiful trend from an employer with a worker fatality on the books and a lot of hot air in the media should be a major red flag for Work Safe Alberta - that is if they are paying attention to their own statistics.

Dave Riley – Sunshine Village’s newly minted COO – says he’s going to make safety a focus. We will see. It’s at least a positive thing that he recognizes the urgent problem but let’s hope he can walk his talk because we’ve heard it all before from his predecessor.  Meanwhile the statistics don’t lie.  Enough talk Dave, the honeymoon is over!  Get on with it – It’s time for some action.

Lost-Time Claim statistics - Sunshine Village

 

 

Payroll Audit Favours Sunshine Employees

A number of current and former employees of Sunshine Village received unexpected, but very welcome and long overdue cheques this Fall following a payroll audit.

 Sunshine Village was investigated by Alberta Employment Standards earlier in the year as the result of a complaint.  The complaint has resulted in changes for Sunshine Village’s payroll practices.  An unknown number of current and former employees received backpay that in some individual cases amounted to hundreds of dollars.  Cheques have reportedly been received by former employees as far away as Australia.  The correction payments were accompanied by a letter from Sunshine Village that did not explain why the errors had been made nor how far back the payroll errors were accounted for.  Sunshine did not include interest on the payments, which collectively amounted to thousands of dollars.

Sunshine Village Watch recommends that all employees keep personal records of their work time and payroll.  This situation proves that the company’s electronic payroll system and administration is subject to major errors that, if not caught and resolved, result in earnings losses for employees who can least afford them.

Alberta Employment Standards regulations can be found at the agency’s website.  Complaints for employer breach of the regulations can also be lodged online.  A successful result is more easily achieved with good documentation that clearly establishes any problems due to rounding or other policies.  Employment Standards has ordered Sunshine Village to adopt new rounding standards that favour the employee rather than the company.

Sunshine Village Watch considers this worker rights issue to be ongoing.  Employees should not take it for granted that their payroll is correct.  Particular attention should be given to statutory holiday pay, rounding of hours and overtime (especially when working for two different departments).  This matter is just one more example of the need for close scrutiny of Sunshine Village’s compliance with employment regulations.  Low income and minimum wage earners need and deserve every dollar that is owed to them by their employer.

Safety Compliance Orders Issued By Alberta Government

Sunshine Village has recently been issued three orders for compliance with workplace safety requirements by the Alberta government .  Sunshine Village Watch is in possession of a series of emails in which a government safety investigator confirms that Sunshine Village was issued compliance orders related to:

  • Fall Protection
  • Hazard Assessment
  • Safe Work Procedures.
The emails indicate that a complaint was made to Alberta Workplace Health & Safety regarding long-standing worker safety issues related to rooftop fall protection at Sunshine Village.  Initially Workplace Health & Safety ignored the complaint which is surprising considering Sunshine’s previous history with a worker fatality in 2004.  Apparently it doesn’t take long for a workplace fatality to be forgotten.   The complaint was eventually escalated to the Minister of Employment & Immigration and was then reviewed and acted upon.  An investigation then found that the complaint was valid and compliance orders were issued.
According to the emails, Alberta Workplace Health & Safety considers the matter now closed as Sunshine has changed its documentation.  When asked if they would be following up to ensure proper fall protection equipment and procedures are actually used during the coming season, the safety investigator refused further comment and said the matter is closed.

Snow Removal Worker on OSL Roof – March 20, 2011 – using non-compliant work-at-height procedures and a non-compliant and inadequate fall protection system.

The matter should not be closed because Sunshine Village has yet to prove that it will comply in practice.   Falls from height are one of the leading causes of workplace injuries and fatalities.  Sunshine Village has a large number of young and transient workers.   Workplace injuries and fatalities are increasing in Alberta.   Sunshine Village has a relatively recent workplace fatality.  Sunshine Village executive management failed to comply with the recommendations of FOUR separate fall protection safety consultants.  Sunshine Village knowingly continued to send workers onto roofs without code-compliant safety systems even while making public promises  to do everything possible to avoid another worker fatality.    Meanwhile in Edmonton the Minister is promising to crack down, protect young workers and hold employers to account.  
Given all those facts some investigative follow-up in this case to ensure real compliance would seem to be very appropriate.  What more should it possibly take?  Apparently that’s not to be though! The matter is now considered “closed” by Alberta Workplace Safety. One would think they would be more diligent.  But at least some government paper got shuffled and rubber-stamped and no one got hurt doing that.  In Alberta these days, that’s what stands as a “government crack-down on worker safety standards and enforcement”.  It’s a shameful insight into what is really behind the “Alberta Advantage”.  It would be a joke if it wasn’t so serious.