By Monisha Martins
Rules meant to protect people working at night in British Columbia have been changed to allow gas station and convenience store clerks to work alone, without barriers.
WorkSafeBC announced amendments to Grant’s Law last Thursday, finding it wasn’t “practicable,” or feasible, for retailers to hire additional workers or erect protective barriers.
Convenience stores can follow other safety procedures, including time-lock safes that can’t be opened during late night hours, video surveillance, as well as keeping limited amounts of cash and lottery tickets at hand. In addition, employers will be required to do regular security audits to confirm that all the controls have been implemented.
“Our priority continues to be protecting late night retail workers from acts of violence,” said Roberta Ellis, senior vice-president of corporate affairs for WorkSafeBC, in a press release announcing the amendment.
The change has outraged the family of Grant De Patie, who fought hard to implement Grant’s Law after he was killed in 2005.
The law made British Columbia the first province in Canada to make drivers pay before they pump gas, and required employers to have two workers or barriers for those who work retail graveyard shifts.
“It is a portion of Grant’s Law that we fought for,” said his father, Doug. “It addressed the underlying causes of what led to Grant’s death.”
Grant De Patie, 24, was working alone when he was killed in 2005 while trying to prevent a gas-and-dash robbery at an Esso station in Maple Ridge.
The B.C. Federation of Labour also criticized the changes.
“It is extremely disappointing to see WorkSafeBC sacrifice evidence-based safety regulations after a lobby based only on the profit motive of late-night employers,” said president Jim Sinclair.
But the Western Convenience Store Association, which lobbied for the change, believes money can now be saved and, in turn, spent on better security.
“It sets a standard for late-night retailers and provides them with an opportunity for them to have someone do a security audit at their store to ensure it has a good, safe environment for their customers and employees to enjoy,” said association chair Len McGeouch.
McGeouch noted that experts have found that having more than one person on staff doesn’t stop criminals from committing robbery.
“If there is a predisposition to committing a criminal act, having one, two or three people won’t stop a person from doing it,” he added.