12/29/2011 09:00 EST | Updated 02/28/2012 05:12 EST

Alberta government reports more fines to employers for workplace safety

EDMONTON - Alberta is reporting a big jump in fines slapped on employers for worksite safety violations.

The Occupational Health and Safety Department says the fines and penalties almost doubled in 2011 to $3.4 million.

Altogether 20 employers were prosecuted for violations this year, including Syncrude Canada, which was hit with the largest single fine, $376,000.

“My first choice is to have no workplace injuries or fatalities, no charges and no convictions,” said Human Services Minister Dave Hancock.

“However, when the law is broken, we need to send strong messages that the health and safety of Albertans must be a priority.”

More than $2.3 million of the penalties in 2011 were in creative sentences paid to third parties, such as post-secondary institutions, training programs, rescue societies and other organizations that advance workplace health and safety.

Individual creative sentences in 2011 ranged from $29,000 to $355,000.

A creative sentence provided the Fort McMurray/Wood Buffalo office of St. John Ambulance with more than $330,000 for a new classroom training facility and to certify approximately 1,000 high school students in Standard First Aid.

“We are very honoured to be considered for these funds,” said Beverly Lafortune, Vice-President of Training and Community Services for St. John Ambulance, Alberta Council. “We’re committed to ensuring there will be plenty of positive outcomes from a tragic workplace incident.”

In 2002, Occupational Health and Safety legislation was amended to allow for creative sentences. Since 2006, over $10 million has been directed to organizations that promote workplace health and safety.