Accidents at work in Quebec | The number of children involved is jumping

Accidents at work increased by 36% among children under 16 in 2021, according to the Commission on Standards, Equity, Health and Safety at Work (CNESST), which is responsible for enforcing the laws. CNESST specifies that 203 children were victims of accidents at work last year, compared to 149 the year before. The youngest was 12 years old.

Posted at 7.15pm.

Michel Arseneault
special cooperation

“Given the massive entry of young people into the job market, this does not surprise me at all,” says Marie Laberge, associate professor at the School of Rehabilitation at the University of Montreal. “You have probably noticed, like me, the very young workers in the shops. The pandemic has created a shortage of labor. »

Since the advent of COVID-19, companies have grabbed workers, especially in fast food. The owner of a Tim Hortons, who prefers to keep his name quiet because he is not authorized to speak in the media of the brand, sums up the situation: “Before we took ladies. Today we no longer have a choice. In his franchise we hire from the age of 13 years.

No minimum age in Quebec

In Quebec, contrary to popular belief, there is no minimum age for working after school or on weekends. However, children under 14 must obtain written permission from a parent. That Act on labor standards further clarifies that an employer cannot ask children to perform work that is likely to harm their health.

This, of course, does not prevent them … from harming themselves. Especially since they are often asked to do more risky things, including dealing with heavy burdens.

We get them to do it [aux enfants] tasks that no one wants to perform.

Marie Laberge, Associate Professor at the School of Rehabilitation at the University of Montreal

It is therefore no wonder that the biggest cause of injuries among under 16s is falling equipment, tools or machines. Among the ‘accident types’, burns and ‘overexertion’ are second and third place respectively.

Working at a very young age can have serious consequences, especially for those who perform small jobs and are therefore constantly in a learning situation. As CNESST reminds us, “the weeks after employment are those where workers of all ages are most at risk of injury”.

These work accidents compensated in good and due form by CNESST in 2021 would only be the tip of the iceberg. Researchers and lawyers estimate that many young people are reluctant to file a complaint to CNESST, which they are not always aware exists.

It is difficult to know how many children under 16 work during the school year or in the summer. In 2016-2017, even before the pandemic and labor shortages, a survey of the health of young people in high school showed that more than half were in work.

The latest statistics from CNESST suggest that child labor is widespread throughout Quebec, in both urban and rural areas. Apparently, three regions appear to be poor students: Mauricie and Center-du-Québec, Chaudière-Appalaches and Capitale-Nationale with 27, 25 and 21 injured children respectively. Montreal and its inner suburbs (Laval and Longueuil) are doing a little better with 23.

Borders elsewhere in Canada

Quebec is the only Canadian province that does not have a minimum age for child labor. Several provinces also limit the number of hours a child can work each week. In Manitoba, where the minimum age is 13, it is limited to 20. In Alberta, where the minimum age is also 13, the limit is 31 years.

CNESST released its data on April 28, when the Senate passed a bill on combating forced labor and child labor in supply chains. For the senator who presented it, Julie Miville-Dechêne, the situation is “paradoxical”. In 2016, the Federal Parliament ratified Convention 138 of the International Labor Organization, which specified that the minimum age for work would be 16 years. But Quebec has not set a minimum age since René Lévesque’s first government abolished it.

“We are far from exemplary,” the senator said. And Quebec should revise its labor standards. Not all child labor is unacceptable, but it should be better regulated. When 12-year-olds get injured at work, it is worrying and disturbing. »

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