Late night visits to Estevan’s all-night workers were completed when MLA David Forbes was in the Energy City Sunday to see what work conditions are like and to canvass employees regarding possible steps to take to ensure all workers are safe.
Forbes has been touring around the province, stopping in to speak with graveyard-shift employees at retail stores, in order to promote his private member’s bill in the provincial legislature that looks to set out safety requirements that employers who operate late-night retail premises must fulfill.
The bill was put forward in December 2011 after Jimmy Wiebe was shot and killed last June while working a late-night shift alone at a Yorkton gas station. In honour of Wiebe, the bill is being dubbed Jimmy’s Law.
Along with the NDP MLA was Aaron Nagy, a good friend of Wiebe’s who has teamed up with Forbes to move the initiative forward. Darren Kaytor, who was held up twice while working at a gas station in Saskatoon, once with a shotgun and again just a week later with a samurai sword, was also in Estevan to talk to some of the local employees.
Nagy stressed Jimmy’s Law isn’t simply about ensuring there are two employees working late at night.
“What we’re looking for is to teach people proper safety precautions, which include barriers, locked doors, glass partitions, Lazy Susan type (windows) where they do business through the door. It’s common sense stuff is what we’re trying to say.”
It’s also important to have a second person working, not just for safety reasons but health reasons, if an employee is alone throughout the night and has a serious medical issue, like a heart attack, he added.
Forbes also said that what businesses should have is a violence or robbery plan.
“There’s no plan whatsoever. If somebody comes to the door and asks you for money, what do you do? And that’s a basic occupational health and safety issue. So every employee should be asking, ‘what’s the plan?’ If there is no plan then you have some questions to be asked.”
Forbes said these policies are only developed about 20 per cent of the time by businesses.
“Everybody knows somebody who works in retail, and in terms of graveyard shifts, people get worried about their kids working (them). You hear stories across Canada, especially for young women working graveyard shifts, people get nervous out there.”
Forbes isn’t entirely sure what will come of his bill, which is to be discussed further in session this week.
“Whether it will be regulation, our emphasis is that there is some greater protection.”
Jimmy’s Law isn’t popular with everyone. Forbes noted it has been critiqued as a “knee-jerk reaction.”
But he said they’ve counted eight “dangerous occurrences,” in this situation, including Jimmy’s murder, three of Kaytor’s, as his workplace was robbed a third time when he wasn’t present, and there were four separate incidents in Regina on one night in January.
“This is not a knee-jerk reaction. What we’ve found on our tour is that there are some really good employers who have created a situation where there’s lots of things happening at their workplace. They’ve got two workers but they’ve also got a series of safety precautions, like the lock boxes.”
After stopping at Estevan’s 7-Eleven stores, the group headed to Weyburn to visit some more late-night workers. Forbes issued a press release Monday morning following the local tour, and noted that most businesses here do schedule multiple employees to cover late-night shifts.
“Nobody is saying this is the magic bullet that all of a sudden this will stop crime,” added Forbes.