Alberta Fed list helps workers assess risks of return to work


IT’S THE LAST LIST ANYONE WANTS TO TOP. It’s a list of jobs ranked by the risk of getting the coronavirus, from the most risky to the least. The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) created the list as part of a campaign to promote COVID-19 awareness and caution among workers as they go back to work.

The AFL believes the provincial government has not done enough to protect workers from the coronavirus on the job.

“What we’re saying with this list is there’s particular categories of workers who deserve special attention, and special protection as Albertans go back to work,” said Gil McGowan president of the AFL.

Dentistry tops the list

Dentistry tops the list, with dental hygienists, therapists and assistants, dentists and denturists coming in as the top four jobs with the highest potential to be exposed to infectious diseases.

Other top 10 riskiest jobs include general practitioners and family physicians, respiratory therapists, paramedics, licensed practical nurses, medical stenographers, and medical radiation technologists.

Janitors, building caretakers and superintendents are the last on the top 100 list.

The AFL list focuses on jobs where workers are in close contact with the public and contagious diseases. That means high risk jobs like meat packing and manufacturing aren’t on the list.

McGowan, believes the list can help inform policies to prevent the spread of the disease in many high-risk settings. “We’ve flattened the curve, but the virus is still circulating,” McGowan stated.

“The government has an obligation to protect the health of all Albertans; but, as people return to work, the premier and his officials have a particular duty to workers in high-risk jobs.”

Low-wage workers face major threat

The AFL’s investigations also confirmed that low-wage workers are at a greater risk of getting infected. They live so close to the line they feel forced to go to work, even if they are unwell or their workplace is unsafe.

These include many workers who have high levels of contact with the public, like “bus and taxi drivers, recreation and fitness workers, librarians, delivery workers, those in food services and cashiers,” according to an AFL release.

The AFL says the government seems to have learned nothing from what happened at the Cargill meat packing plant: the company was slow to react to the covid threat; tried to lure workers back to work in the infected plant with vouchers and bonuses; only agreed to a temporary shut down after the first infected worker was killed.

The result was over 1,000 workers were infected with COVID-19. At least three deaths were linked to the outbreak at the plant.

Despite all that happened on the killing floor at the Cargill plant, the AFL says the government has failed to learn anything about how not to deal with the coronavirus.

AFL warns of ‘dangerous false sense of security’

McGowan warned workers against listening to premier Jason Kenney, who claimed that people aged under 65 are at no greater risk of dying from coronavirus than other illnesses. Kenney also asserted that the average age of coronavirus fatalities is 83, while life expectancy in Alberta is 82.

“This is the worst kind of message to be sending to Albertans as they return to work,” McGowan said. “The science says that we’re not out of the woods yet.”

“So far, Alberta’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been a story of success in the community, but a failure in a growing number of workplaces,” explained McGowan.

“The government’s failure to be more proscriptive with employers and more aggressive with enforcement has led to unnecessary outbreaks and, sadly, a number of preventable deaths.”

CLICK to read the full risk list

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