Advocates for workplace safety rallied outside an East Vancouver convenience store Sunday to protest the amendment of a law meant to protect late-night workers.

Grant's Law was passed after 24-year-old Grant De Patie was dragged to death in a gas-and-dash while working as a gas station attendant in 2005. The legislation required motorists prepay for gas, as well as for employers to either install cage-like protective barriers or have at least two workers on shifts between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

But changes brought in Sunday allow for a third option to hiring additional employees and erecting barriers for late-night workers. Instead, employers can now choose to set up several safety controls that include installing a surveillance camera and a panic button.

Grant's father, Doug De Patie, worries his son's legacy has been undermined.

"We are back to the days when Grant was killed," De Patie told CTV News. "Now we're really leaving those employees out vulnerable like sitting ducks in the workplace."

Stephen Von Sychowski, a spokesman for the Employee Action Rights Network, was among people petitioning outside a Mac's Convenience Store in hopes of getting WorkSafeBC to reverse the changes.

He says allowing the third option is troublesome.

"The idea of a surveillance camera and an emergency button are fine as part of a broader strategy, but a surveillance camera only captures what happens, it doesn't prevent it," Von Sychowski said.

He also warns pressing a panic button may only send a call to a manger's cell phone who may not even be awake to pick it up.

"There may be a belief that when you press that button, help is on the way, but that may or may not be the case," Von Sychowski said.

WorkSafeBC says the safety barriers were costly and brought in complaints about customer service and construction. Some employers also had trouble finding multiple employees to work overnight.

"These requirements are rigorous; it is not easy to comply with any of the three options," Spokeswoman Donna Freeman told CTV News.

Under the third options, employers must implement the following controls:

  • Install a time-lock safe that can't be opened during late-night hours
  • Store most cash and lottery tickets in the time-lock safe
  • Ensure good visibility inside and outside of the store
  • Limit access inside of the store
  • Monitor the business with video surveillance
  • Post signs advising the safe can't be opened, there is limited cash and lottery tickets on the premises and the area is being monitored by video surveillance
  • Late-night employees must be at least 19 years old
  • Late-night employees must be provided with personal emergency transmitters monitored by the employer, a security company, or another person designated by the employer

With files from CTV British Columbia's Lisa Rossington and The Canadian Press