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B.C. changes gas-and-dash safety rules after businesses raise concerns

An undated handout photo of Grant De Patie. He was dragged to death after trying to prevent the theft of $12 worth of gas.

Handout photo

WorkSafeBC is changing British Columbia's gas-and-dash laws after businesses complained some of the regulations to protect late-night workers weren't feasible.

WorkSafeBC spokeswoman Roberta Ellis said Thursday employers now have a third option to protect workers that doesn't include hiring more employees or erecting barriers. It involves a series of steps for worker safety, including use of a time-lock safe.

Ms. Ellis denied the changes are watering down what's become known as Grant's Law, which was brought in after gas station attendant Grant De Patie was dragged to his death in a gas-and-dash in March of 2005.

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"The Occupational Health and Safety Regulation is looking to protect that worker," she said. "That's our first imperative, but also to allow the business to continue to operate.

"I don't agree with the statement that this is watering down the health and safety regulations," Ms. Ellis said. "I've never been in that business and I wouldn't allow that. This is a good regulation."

She said the pre-pay gas policy remains, but employers now have the option of taking other safety measures to avoid hiring additional staff or erecting cage-like barriers in late-night stores.

But if employers include the third option, which involves eight safety controls, they are obligated to implement each one and can't pick and choose among them, Ms. Ellis said.

The third-option steps are: installing a time-lock safe that cannot be opened during late-night hours, storing most cash and lottery tickets in the time-lock safe, ensuring good visibility inside and outside of a store, limiting access to the inside of a store, monitoring business by video surveillance and erecting signs advising that the safe cannot be opened, that there is limited cash and lottery tickets on site and that the store is monitored by video.

The third option also requires that late-night employees must be at least 19 years old and provided with emergency transmitters monitored by the employer, a security company or another person designated by the employers.

The amendments come into effect on April 15, 2012.

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The Western Convenience Stores Association, representing 2,400 stores with 25,000 employees, issued a statement supporting the amendments.

Association chairman Len McGeouch said the third option also includes a rigorous assessment of the risk of violence to lone employees between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. that could still result in employers hiring more people or constructing barriers.

"This decision will help ensure the safety of both employees and the public while protecting the viability of the business and the jobs it supports," Mr. McGeouch said.

B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair said pressure from the business lobby prompted WorkSafeBC to change some of the best worker-protection regulations in North America.

"The next thing you know we get a watered-down version where they'll take a picture of you being robbed and you can press a button and somebody might show up in 20 minutes or they might not," he said.

Last spring, Doug De Patie, Grant's father, asked a WorkSafeBC hearing not to bend to the demands of business.

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He expressed dismay at the amended regulations in a statement on the B.C. Federation's website.

"Grant's death has been relegated back to the cost of doing business. I feel like we're back at square one."

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