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New B.C. youth work rules: Heavy lifting, ag chem handling out

New standards also lift province's 'general working age' to 16

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File photo of apple picking in a Canadian orchard. (Martinedoucet/E+/Getty Images)

“Light farm and yard work” are deemed appropriate for workers at ages 14 and 15 under new employment standards taking effect in British Columbia this fall.

The province on Wednesday announced changes to its Employment Standards Act, which have been through the development and consultation stages since 2019, have now been finalized and will take effect Oct. 15.

“We know that most employers make safety their top priority for all their workers, and these changes clarify what types of employment are age-appropriate for young workers,” provincial Labour Minister Harry Bains said in a release.

The planned changes to work standards raise the “general working age” in B.C. to 16, up from 12 currently, and more specifically define types of jobs “appropriate for those under 16.”

Under the new standards, the province noted, children aged 12 and up can continue to be employed in a business or “on a farm owned by an immediate family member” — as long as the work meets safety criteria set out in its regulations.

B.C. until now has been the only province in Canada that allowed employment of children as young as 12, the province said. “In some cases, this involved hazardous situations or environments, such as construction sites or heavy-industry settings.”

The province on Wednesday cited WorkSafeBC data showing over $1.1 million paid out in job-related disability claims for workers 14 or younger between 2007 and 2016.

Among examples of “light work” the province lists as appropriate for 14- and 15-year-olds were “light farm and yard work, such as gardening, harvesting by hand, clearing leaves and snow, and grass cutting” along with certain recreation, retail, foodservice and desk jobs.

Among tasks to be listed as “generally treated as unsafe for youth under 16” were “repairing, maintaining or operating heavy machinery” as well as “lifting, carrying or moving heavy items or animals” and “using, handling or applying hazardous substances, such as pesticides.”

The province emphasized its new rules also will not prevent children from babysitting or delivering newspapers part-time, or prohibit students from working in a work study or work experience class.

The province said it’s also working to define tasks deemed “hazardous” for 16- to 18-year-olds, with further regulatory changes expected to follow later this year. — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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