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Employment Standards Update: What You Need to Know About the Recent Amendments

Jessica Gibson

January 5, 2023

Hazardous Work Protection for Youth

In keeping with its mandate to ensure worker protections,  the B.C. government conducted a public engagement survey to assess the potential workplace risk to youth under 19 years. As a result of asking British Columbians for their opinions on this issue, the B.C. government has updated the Employment Standards Regulation to better define unsuitable work for minors.

Commencing January 1, 2023, minimum age requirements will be in effect for workers in industries such as construction and forestry.

A minimum age of 16 is now required to undertake the following activities:

·         construction

·         silviculture

·         forest firefighting

·         working from heights that require fall protection.

A minimum age of 18 is now required to undertake the following activities:

·         tree falling and logging

·         using a chainsaw

·         work in a production process at a pulp, paper, saw, shake or shingle mill

·         work in a production process at a foundry, metal processing or metal fabrication operation, refinery or smelter

·         powerline construction or maintenance where an electrical hazard exists

·         oil or gas well servicing and drilling

·         work with dangerous equipment in fish, meat or poultry processing facilities

·         silica process/exposure to silica dust

·         work in which a worker is or may be exposed to potentially harmful levels of asbestos

·         exposure to harmful levels of radiation

·         working in a confined space or underground workings

·         work requiring a respirator

There are some exceptions to each of the above, such as if the child was hired before January 2023.

The Need for Change

Unfortunately, young workers are at a higher risk of experiencing work-related illnesses or injuries. Between 2016 and 2020, 669 B.C. workers under 19 were injured in construction jobs, while 26 suffered long-term disabilities.

The B.C. Government has been making efforts to strengthen B.C.’s employment laws to better protect young people at work. The general working age has been increased from 12 to 16, and “light work” has been defined for those jobs that can be safely performed by children who are 14 and 15, with parental permission. The changes also allow children 12 and over to work for a family business or farm, provided the tasks are safe as set out in the Employment Standards Regulation. These changes have brought B.C. into alignment with international labour standards aimed at protecting children from dangerous or unsuitable work.

If you are a young worker, or your business employs youth, contact us to discuss these amendments and how to ensure that you are protected!