Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Molly has reported on this matter twice before and will, continue to do so until its conclusion. The latest news is that the family of Andrew James, recently killed in an accident in Stony Mountain Manitoba, has opted to "stand behind" the contractor who employed their son. That is their privilege, and Molly will hardly try and second-guess their decision, being as she is very experienced with the problems of dealing with sudden death in a family, on more than one occasion.
All the same the question remains- how many underage workers are actually illegally employed in dangerous jobs in this province ? The vast majority of "deaths at work" are among younger workers, underage or otherwise, who, as the following article makes plain, have little idea of the dangers of the job. What does this say about the so-called "enforcement" of our province's labour laws ? Molly has already proposed the alternative- massive unionization with unions willing to fight for their members. NO LAWS will prevent such future tragedies, but action by workers themselves will.
Here's the latest from the CBC.

Charges possible in teen's construction site death
Parents' support won't save company from prosecution
Memorials erected near the construction site where Andrew James, 15, was killed under a load of hot asphalt on July 25. (CBC)A construction company involved in a horrifying workplace accident that killed a 15-year-old Manitoba boy last week could face prosecution, even though the teen's parents had given their permission for him to be on the site.

Andrew James died Friday after he was buried in hot asphalt on a construction site in Stony Mountain, Man. RCMP said it appeared the boy was helping to unload asphalt from a truck when he was buried under its contents.

James's family has said they're too distraught to speak to CBC News, but his parents, Roberta and Rick James, told the Winnipeg Free Press they had supported their son's summer job and don't blame the owner of the construction company, Interlake Asphalt Paving.

"We want to let the world know, and everybody know, who are trying to find someone to blame, there is no one to blame," Roberta James told the newspaper.

But under Manitoba law, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 16 to work on a construction site.

Stan Kruse, director of the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association's safety program, says the family's support of the company won't stop the investigation.

"The laws aren't made to be fair sometimes, and they might not have been fair to this young person or any young person that's working right now without a permit or on a construction site under 16," said Stan Kruse, director of the safety program for the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association,

"It's not meant to be fair. It's meant to protect workers."

Two workers on the site suffered burns to their hands trying to dig James out of the asphalt. (CBC)People in the construction industry say even when workers are old enough to work legally, they must be closely supervised.

"You've got to be careful when young guys are around, you know, because they're just not skilled, not knowledgeable about what could happen," said Keith Assels, who owns a concrete company working in the area.

The demand for general labourers is high in Manitoba, but the Manitoba Federation of Labour says that doesn't mean rules should be relaxed.

"I hope that if there are young people working in places where they are not supposed to be, this will be a real wake-up call, not just to the legislators who can't stop this, but to the people who are employing them," said federation president Darlene Dziewit.

Manitoba Workplace Safety and Health and the RCMP are continuing to investigate the situation.

Under Manitoba laws, the company could face fines of up to $150,000 for workplace safety and health violations or $25,000 under employment standards violations.

The company could also face charges under a section of the Criminal Code, amended in 2003, that allows companies to be held criminally negligent when workers are put in danger. The legislation was amended in the wake of the Westray mine explosion, which killed 26 workers in Nova Scotia in 1992.

The James family is planning Andrew's funeral for Thursday.

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