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Media Release: AUPE calls for improved highway maintenance safety

“We’re sitting ducks out there” – AUPE calls for improved safety for highway maintenance workers

Dec 02, 2021

“We’re sitting ducks out there”

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EDMONTON - Following the injury yesterday of two members struck by a semi-tractor trailer while doing highway maintenance, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) is calling on the province to start taking the safety of these workers seriously.
“We were informed by Emcon Services late yesterday afternoon that two of our members were washing highway signs when a semi-tractor hit them from behind. One was airlifted to hospital in Edmonton and the other was taken to hospital in Lloydminster by ground ambulance,” confirmed AUPE Vice President Mike Dempsey. The workers’ conditions are unknown at this time.
“Our thoughts are first and foremost with these members and their loved ones,” said Dempsey. “Nobody should leave their home for a work shift and wonder if they are going to make it back alive. We wish them both a full and speedy recovery and want them to know that our thoughts and prayers are with them.”
Emcon Services took over contracted highway maintenance services for the Alberta government three years ago when the previous contractor, Carillion Canada, declared bankruptcy. While Dempsey acknowledges it’s the employer’s responsibility to keep its workers safe on the job, he says it’s a larger province-wide problem that goes beyond Emcon and the province needs to act.   

“Last December, we had two Emcon members doing pothole repairs struck by a vehicle. In 2013, a Carillion worker died, and another was seriously injured near Beiseker,” Dempsey said. “You might expect me to ask if it is going to take someone to die before the province takes this seriously, but the fact is people have already died and they still don’t take it seriously.”   

The Chapter Chair who represents the injured members says the danger they face weighs heavily.
“We’re sitting ducks out there,” said Jason MacLeod, who serves as his Chapter Chair and is Co-Chair of the Emcon/AUPE Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee.    

“We’re washing signs or guideposts or guardrails and half our truck wheels are on the shoulder and the other half is in the drive lane. We see someone coming in the rear-view mirror and wonder ‘Is this the one that’s gonna hit us?’”
Macleod has called upon Emcon to put a moratorium on this work practice until Alberta Occupational Health and Safety has the opportunity to complete an investigation. Dempsey suggested Alberta Transportation do the same.
“Alberta Transportation contracts Emcon to wash guide posts and signs to protect public safety but we need to find a way to prioritize the safety of the workers they send out there to wash them,” added Macleod.   

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For further information, please contact:   
Mimi Williams, Communications Officer


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