B.C. consulting on jobs that are too hazardous for young workers

Construction, forestry, food processing among those being considered

B.C. consulting on jobs that are too hazardous for young workers

British Columbia has proposed a framework that outlines the types of jobs that could be defined as hazardous and unsuitable for young workers, and the province would want to hear feedback from stakeholders.

The government is consulting on what types of work are too hazardous to be done by youth under age 16, and in some cases, under 19.

The engagement materials are being translated into traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, Punjabi and French, and will be available soon.

Interested parties can visit https://engage.gov.bc.ca/govtogetherbc to provide their input.

In developing the proposed framework, ministry staff examined WorkSafeBC injury data and other jurisdictions’ labour laws relating to hazardous employment.

Between 2012 and 2021, WorkSafeBC data revealed more than $26.4 million was paid out in job-related disability claims for workers who were aged 16 to under-19 at the time of the injury.

In B.C. the average annual injury rate is 2.1 per 100 workers, but some jobs have much higher injury rates, according to the government. For example:

  • framers in the construction industry have an injury rate of 7.8 per 100 workers;
  • workers in abattoirs have an injury rate of 15.7; and
  • manual tree fallers/buckers have an injury rate of almost 20 per 100 workers

After more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 20 per cent of Canadian employers are not offering safety and orientation programs for new employees even though these are legally required for much of the country, according to a report.

With the data available, B.C. identified construction, forestry, food processing, oil/gas and power and asbestos abatement, among others, as having hazardous work regulations for young people.

In October 2021, changes to B.C.’s Employment Standards Act regarding young workers took effect. First announced in July of that year, the rule states that the general working age in the province has jumped to 16 from 12. Previously, B.C. was the only province in Canada whose general minimum working age was as young as 12.

Recently, the Saskatchewan government announced it is working with the Saskatchewan Safety Council (SSC) to include injury prevention and safety content in Saskatchewan curricula.

Most business or engineering schools do not offer courses – or offer very limited education – on health and safety. But safety is integral to both of these professions, and individuals will only really learn about occupational health and safety once they get into the workplace.

“These courses should be offered to everybody,” said Lee-Anne Lyon-Bartley, executive vice president for health, safety, environment and quality at Dexterra.