Certain work will now be off limits to workers under the age of 18, according to new rules the BC Ministry of Labour announced October 11.
BC farms can no longer allow youth under the age of 18 to work in confined spaces or work with “dangerous equipment” at on-farm abattoirs.
A chainsaw is also off-limits for workers under the age of 18.
Workers under the age of 16 are also prohibited from engaging in construction work and jobs at heights that require fall protection.
The new rules follow a public consultation regarding the types of work appropriate for the various age groups. The consultation took place April 21 to June 10.
BC Ministry of Labour staff could not say how many workers will be affected by the new rules. It is discussing the question with staff at the BC Ministry of Agriculture and Food.
The new rules further align BC’s child labour laws with those of other provinces and countries.
Prior to new rules passed in 2019, BC was the only province in Canada where children as young as 12 could be employed legally and their injuries covered by WorkSafe BC.
New rules that took effect last year raised the minimum working age from 12 to 16, and identified certain jobs as “light work” suitable for youth aged 14 to 15, with parental permission. This includes hand-harvesting produce on farms.
The new rules continue to allow children as young as 12 to work on a family farm or a farm business owned by an immediate family member, according to a program expert at the BC Ministry of Labour, “provided that the work does not involve the specified elements that make the work unsafe for children.”
Such elements include repairing, maintaining or operating heavy machinery; lifting, carrying or moving heavy items or animals; and using, handling or applying hazardous substances, such as pesticides.
The new rules add confined spaces and the use of dangerous abattoir equipment to that list.
But if youth are “simply performing a chore,” then the regulation doesn’t apply.
AgSafe recommends considering the age, ability and maturity level of younger workers when determining what activities are appropriate. A task-specific safety orientation is also recommended.