A 15-year-old died on the job at a gravel crushing operation in Alberta this weekend, prompting calls for tougher labour standards.
Christopher Lawrence, a teenager and fairly new employee at Arjon Construction, in Drumheller, Alta., died after becoming entangled in a conveyer.
The fatal incident is indicative that the government needs to give teeth to its labour standards, according to the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL).
“Alberta’s child labour laws are among the most lax in Canada,” said Siobhan Vipond, the federation’s secretary-treasurer, who added that expanding labour should not be the first item on the province’s docket. “Instead of rushing more young workers onto potentially unsafe work sites, we need to keep young workers safe. Today, Alberta is one of the most unsafe places for a young person to work.”
Earlier this spring, Alberta’s labour ministry spearheaded changes to its employment standards code, opening up consultations with the public. The AFL’s submission focused the spotlight on young workers, pointing out the need to beef up regulation.
“Alberta needs targeted inspections of workplaces that employ 15 to 17-year-olds, especially in construction and other comparatively dangerous occupations,” Vipond explained.
Young workers are particularly susceptible to abuses in the workplace, such as illegal salary deductions, unsafe work and sexual harassment. As such, the AFL recommended employers undergo a specified mandatory health and safety training at jobsites that frequently hire youth.
Alberta Occupational Health and Safety is currently investigating Lawrence’s death.
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