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B.C. Acts To Protect Lone and Isolated Workers

Effective February 1, 2008, B.C. will enact new workers compensation rules governing employees working alone or in isolation. These rules are intended, among other things, to address the underlying causes of the tragic death of Maple Ridge gas station attendant Grant Depatie.
The new rules comprise three distinct categories of workplace protection for employees who are working in circumstances where assistance would not readily be available in case of an emergency. That means workers who are not in the vicinity of others who would be aware of the employee’s needs and would be willing and capable of providing assistance within a reasonable period of time.
The new rules are intended to safeguard workers (which generally, but not exclusively, means employees as defined in the B.C. Workers Compensation Act) who are working alone or in isolation. This might include obvious examples such as a clerk at a convenience store, retail outlet, or parking lot, or a taxi driver. It could also include workers (such as home care or social service providers) who meet clients outside the office.
It also includes workers (such as forestry workers, a night cleaner in a plant, or a boom boat operator)   performing hazardous work at remote locations. And, it includes workers who are isolated from co-workers or from the public (such as security guards, night shift workers in community care facilities).
The first of the new sets of rules applies to all employers. All employers must identify, eliminate, and control hazards before a worker is assigned to work alone or in isolation. And, they must develop and implement a procedure for checking the well-being of any worker who is assigned to work alone or in isolation.
The second set of rules applies to employers who have workers who are working alone or in isolation in retail premises between 10:00pm and 6:00am. These employers must develop written procedures for handling money and the workers must be trained in these procedures. 
If the worker will be alone, the employer must either ensure the worker is physically separated from the public by a locked door or barrier. There are no specific requirements about what the barrier must look like or how it must be constructed, but it must prevent the public from physically contacting or gaining access to the worker. It must be constructed from a material that will be difficult to break and which will provide protection to the worker.
In some retail premises, such as convenience stores, these rules will effectively mean the employer will have to choose between having two (or more) workers present at all times or locking the doors and utilizing some sort of a buzzer system so the lone worker can move about freely when no customers are present. Once customers arrive, the employee would then have to retreat behind the barrier before allowing them to enter the premises.
The third set of rules applies specifically to employers operating gas stations. Those employers must develop a prepay system for all fuel sold in gas stations and other refueling outlets (with the exception of marine fueling stations). 
The prepay system does not have to be an electronic, pay-at-the-pump system, but it does have to be set up to ensure gas is paid for before pumping begins. Other options include prepayment for fuel directly to the gas bar attendant, providing the attendant with a credit card, or payment by a card lock system (common to the commercial trucking industry).
It is important to recognize that the prepay rules for purchasing fuel will be in place 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. And these requirements apply regardless of how many workers are present. These rules apply in both urban and rural locations throughout B.C., and include both self-serve and full-serve gas stations (including propane stations).
There can be no doubt that these rules are going to require substantial changes to the way some businesses operate. It seems to me that the fuel pre-pay rules won’t be all that disruptive, since many of us already pay before pumping gas. The stations which do have to alter their procedures will simply be adopting technology or processes already commonly in use.
The rules relating to workers who are working alone in retail premises between 10:00pm and 6:00am could be more difficult to implement. The easy solution, of course, is to have more than one worker present at all times during the night. For employers who cannot afford that expense, structural changes to their operations will definitely be in order. 
For customers of these businesses, the process of obtaining service may also become a lot more cumbersome. Along the way, however, workers will come to enjoy a much higher level of protection than in the past.
Much more comprehensive information regarding the new workers compensation rules is available online at  Assistance can also be obtained from the Employers’ Advisors Office at All employers would be wise to access these resources, soon, in relation to the upcoming changes.


Robert Smithson is a partner at Pushor Mitchell LLP in Kelowna practicing exclusively in the area of labour and employment law. For more information about his practice, log on to