In the wake of an incident late last month at a gravel pit that took the life of a 15-year-old worker, the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) has called for a review of the province’s child labour laws.
According to reports, the teen had been working with a conveyer belt machine at an Arjon Construction Ltd. site, and was apparently attempting to remove a jam in the machine when a piece of his clothing became caught and pulled him into the machine. The worker had only been working with the company at the site for a few weeks, he apparently had received no training on the machine and he wasn’t being supervised at the time of the accident. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Alberta Occupational Health and Safety has launched an investigation.
Following the accident, the AFL issued a statement, pointing out that Alberta’s labour laws covering children and adolescents are among some of the most lax in Canada. They also noted that a recent Employment Standards review by Alberta workplace safety officials offered provincial officials with an opportunity to toughen those standards, but they did nothing.
The AFL also noted that they have recommended ways to improve safety standards and working conditions for young workers. Their latest submission was made on April 11, 2014 and included a number of recommendations, such as conducting targeted inspections of workplaces that hire workers who are 15-17 years old, especially in dangerous occupations like construction. They also suggested a special mandated health and safety training program specifically geared to those employers who hire 15-17 year olds. Another recommendation was to review whether some dangerous activities such as forklift operations and construction work should be prohibited for those under 18 altogether.