These workers claimed their workplace was unsafe. Then their employer fired them.

These workers claimed their workplace was unsafe. Then their employer fired them.

BCFED Health and Safety Centre No Comment

According to Bob Barnetson's Rabble Blog, in 2014, there were over 50,000 serious injuries in British Columbia. Yet very few workers refuse unsafe work. The experiences of Julio Serrano and David Britton help us understand why workers are reluctant to exercise their safety rights.

Serrano was a crane operator working on the tunnel portion of Evergreen Line tunnel in Port Moody, B.C. The limit switch on his crane -- a safety device that activated the crane's brakes in certain circumstances -- had been acting up for months. Instead of fixing it, the employer removed the safety device, thereby endangering the operator and workers on the ground.

On December 2, 2014, Serrano flagged the missing limit switch as a serious hazard and violation of B.C. health and safety laws. The employer directed Serrano to operate the crane. Serrano refused and called WorkSafeBC. Serrano had previously survived a potentially fatal injury on the same job site caused by poor maintenance of equipment.

The resulting inspection saw the crane put out of operation until the limit switch was replaced. Shortly after the crane was fixed, an additional operator was hired and Serrano was laid off. Serrano asserts the layoff was in retaliation for making numerous health and safety complaints. The employer (SNC-Lavalin) asserts the layoff was due to lack of work.

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