You are here

New Fuel Prepay Rules Take Effect

The B.C. government has enacted new workers compensation rules governing employees working alone or in isolation. These rules come into effect on February 1, 2008.
 
There are three new categories of workplace protection for employees who are working in circumstances where assistance would not readily be available in case of an emergency.
 
The first new set of rules applies to all employers. They 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 new 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.
 
The impact of the third new set of rules will probably be the most immediately apparent to residents of British Columbia. These rules apply specifically to employers operating gas stations, who must implement 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 the common pay-at-the-pump system, but it does have to be set up to ensure gas is paid for before pumping begins. This means that gas stations don’t necessarily have to purchase new equipment to be in compliance with the rules. 
 
Other options include cash prepayment directly to a gas bar attendant, providing the attendant with a credit card, directing the gas station attendant to charge a purchase to an existing account, or payment by a card lock system (which is already common to the commercial trucking industry).
 
The new fuel prepay rules will apply 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. 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), and are in effect regardless of how many workers are present.
 
With the exception of marine fueling stations, the new prepay rules apply to all situations in which fuel is being pumped into a motor vehicle.   They do not apply to other full purchases, such as when propane is being pumped into a barbeque tank.
 
The new fuel prepay rules are intended, among other things, to address the underlying causes of the tragic death of Maple Ridge gas station attendant Grant Depatie. Mr. Depatie was killed while on duty and in an attempt to foil a so-called “gas and dash”. That tragedy gave rise to a renewed call for protections for retail employees from the risks associated with confronting thieves.
 
After Depatie’s death, WorkSafeBC’s policy department heard “very strongly” that 24/7 protections for gas attendants were wanted. The purpose of the new rules was put simply by B.C.’s Minister of Labour and Citizens’ Services when she said, “we want to make sure everyone returns home safely after a day’s work”.
 
It is likely those of us living in an urban centre won’t really be affected as most urban gas stations already have the electronic pay-at-the-pump system installed. For those consumers living in areas without these systems, their local gas station may experience a bump or two along the way to achieving compliance with the prepay rules. Let’s hope their customers will exercise some patience and will remember that owners of gas stations are attempting to make their workplace safer for their employees.
 
Employers looking for more comprehensive information about the new WorkSafeBC rules may obtain that online at www.worksafebc.com. Assistance can also be obtained from the Employers’ Advisors Office at www.gov.bc.ca/eao.
 
 
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 http://www.pushormitchell.com/.