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.
WorkSafeBC announced amendments to Grant’s Law on Thursday, finding it wasn’t “practicable,” or feasible, for retailers to hire additional workers or erect protective barriers.
Instead of having two people on shift, 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 by a qualified and independent person 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, which 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 included provisions to add two workers or barriers for those who work retail graveyard shifts – an integral part of the legislation.
“It is a portion of Grant’s Law that we fought for. It addressed the underlying causes of what led to Grant’s death,” said his father, Doug.
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.
“It is sad that WorkSafeBC is kowtowing to the employers, especially the few that came forward,” Doug De Patie added.
“Let’s face it, when Grant was killed, a lot of things were said and done. Grant now and back then was collateral damage for employers. He was a casualty of big business. I guess that’s the way the work place is, our family members are traded off.”
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. “This is a huge setback for some of the most vulnerable and lowest-paid workers in the province.”
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 Western Canadian Convenience Store 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.
For Jessica Tyler, who works at a Shell gas station in Maple Ridge, which has barriers and magnetic locks on its door, the changes don’t make sense.
She feels much safer behind a barrier, especially on shifts that begin at 6 a.m.
“In the morning, I find it scary. Too many people come in and just look suspicious. I keep everything shut until 7 or 7:30 in the morning,” said Tyler, 22, who is a young mother.
If the gas station didn’t have a barrier, Taylor would want another staff person to work with.
“I wouldn’t work by myself, most definitely not.”