B.C.'s child-injury rate increases dramatically after law loosened

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      For some pocket change, they’re getting cut, bruised, their young bones fractured and backs strained. About six years after the province loosened standards for the employment of children, more kids are suffering from work-related injuries.

      A new study shows that WorkSafeBC accepted a total of 113 injury claims by child workers aged 12 to 14 between 2004 and 2008. This represents a 151-percent increase from the 45 accepted claims from the same age group in the period 1999–2003.

      A draft of the study—tentatively titled Child Work Place Injury Claims in B.C.—recalls that in December 2003, the B.C. Liberal government amended the Employment Standards Act through Bill 37. The legislation did away with the previous system, which provided strict regulation for the employment of workers below the age of 15.

      Injury claims from 12- to 14-year-old workers jumped almost fivefold from nine in 2004—the first full year the changes were in effect—to 42 in 2008.

      “I think we have an alarming situation,” report author Helesia Luke told the Georgia Straight. “It’s clear that there is enough data since the law was changed to say that there is a relationship between the law changing and the number of children who are getting injured.”

      Luke, an advocate of public education, cowrote a 2004 paper that looked into those changes in legislation. According to Who’s Looking Out for Our Kids?: Deregulating Child Labour Law in British Columbia, the amendments ended five decades of direct government oversight of the employment of 12- to 14-year-old children.

      Under the old system, an employer planning to hire workers younger than 15 had to obtain a permit from the director of the Employment Standards Branch. This official could impose conditions of employment on such matters as tasks to be performed, hours of work, and transportation to and from work. Consent from both parents and school authorities was also required.

      With the new regulation, a person less than 15 years of age can be employed without a permit from the employment-standards director. The consent of only one parent is needed, even in cases of joint custody or guardianship.

      In a phone interview, WorkSafeBC spokesperson Donna Freeman pointed out that it is “very difficult” to draw conclusions just from the injury claims. She explained that there are no available statistics on how many 12- to 14-year-olds are actually working to reference the claims. According to her, Statistics Canada doesn’t keep tabs on the number of workers in this age group.

      “There is no legal requirement for a family business, for instance, to let us know that they’re employing their 14-year-old,” Freeman told the Straight. “From our perspective, the regulations, health and safety laws, apply equally to any worker, whether they’re 14 or 65.”

      Cuts accounted for most of the injuries suffered by child workers in the 12-to-14 age bracket: 24 of 76 injury claims accepted by WorkSafeBC from 2003 to 2007. There were six claims each for bone fractures, dislocations, and strains.

      By occupation, accommodation and food services had the most injury claims, with 43 cases in the same period. This was followed by retail, agriculture, and general construction.

      “These are just accepted claims,” Luke explained. “These do not reflect every accident that’s happened in the workplace. For each kid injured, there’s many, many more that we don’t know about.”

      Luke’s new study—which will be published on June 22 by First Call: B.C. Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition—notes that there has been a significant increase in work-related injuries among young employees aged 15 since 2004. From that year to 2008, WorkSafeBC accepted claims for 443 injuries. This is an 82-percent increase over the 243 accepted claims in the period between 1999 and 2003.

      The study also shows that 16-year-old workers are suffering the most injuries. Between 2004 and 2008, WorkSafeBC accepted claims for 1,156 cases. In the period from 1999 to 2003, there were 900 accepted claims.

      Luke stressed that she has nothing against young people going to work, noting that there are appropriate jobs suited to their level of skill and time. She said that with the right hours to balance study and play, employment can actually enhance their well-being and confidence.

      This wasn’t the intent of Bill 37, she said. “What this bill did was it identified children as a labour pool, which is very different than having a sort of protective view of caring for kids when they sort of first step into the workforce,” Luke said. “Every other province recognizes this by putting into legislation the kinds of activities, the kinds of occupations they shouldn’t do, like operating power tools, like working on construction sites, like working in the resource sector. We’re the only province that doesn’t do that.”



      Jane Edgett

      Jun 12, 2009 at 6:27am

      The child injury rate is probably MUCH higher (as the report author states). Worksafe BC routinely denies legitimate claims and these child injury statistics only reflect ACCEPTED claims. See the Canadian Injured Workers Society for more information.

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      Aug 9, 2009 at 7:32am

      All the Injury rates are rising,,,but are hidden in misleading statistics because the Compensation Boards are not accepting legitimate claims. They are denying them to benefit business with lower rates.
      We should also be asking why our death rates at work are higher than most of the industrialized world. Yet our injury rates are supposed to be lower because they do not include denied claims.
      Also, Children especially, need education that they are allowed to refuse unsafe work. Unfortunately in many situations they do not feel empowered to do this. They want to prove themself.
      www.wcbcanada.com is good too.

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      child injury claim

      Jan 4, 2011 at 2:59am

      Children are prone to accidents and sometimes there is nothing parents can do about it. However, when other people are responsible for causing injuries to your children, you have the knowledge that a child injury compensation claim can provide a sufficient amount of money to ensure that they receive the best possible medical attention. for more help click: http://www.injuryie.com/child-injury-compensation-claim/

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