Dentistry tops list of most dangerous jobs during pandemic

EDMONTON — The Alberta Federation of Labour has compiled a list of the top 100 jobs in Alberta most at risk from infection from COVID-19, which is causing calls for the province to make some safety measures mandatory for these businesses.

The list was compiled by a retired analyst from Stats Canada for the AFL.

“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 of the AFL.

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.

At least one local dentist said safety is a top priority in the clinic he works in, regardless of COVID-19.

“Everything that we practice in a dental office outside of a pandemic is basically everything that’s practiced during a pandemic,” said Dr. Andrew Schmidt.

But despite the usual precautions, the AFL wants the province to turn COVID-19 guidelines for these workplaces into enforceable measures.

“At least for these workers, who are at extreme risk, or significant risk, that these directives on public health are not seen just as guidance or suggestions,” said McGowan.

“If they’re not, we’re afraid that many of these people will be infected.”

The government responded to calls from CTV News Edmonton with a written statement.

“The Government is taking its advice and direction from health and safety experts, including Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Hinshaw,” said Adrienne South, press secretary for the minister of labour and immigration. “In addition to working with Dr. Hinshaw and our team of public health experts, government ministries continue to work with Alberta businesses to address the concerns in all sectors.”

“The Ministry has responded to a wide range of Mr. McGowan’s concerns and will continue to make the AFL aware of the measures being taken in order to ensure a safe relaunch. We are focused on doing work that is in the best interest of Albertans.”

Schmidt’s dental clinic has been operating at full capacity since last week, but he said there have been some challenges.

“The equipment that the province has said is available to us is not as available as we thought.”

Other health care workers make up the rest of the top 10 jobs most at risk, according to the AFL’s list, with GPs and family physicians, respiratory therapists, paramedical occupations, licensed practical nurses and medical sonographers rounding out the list.

The full list is available online. 

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Jay Rosove.