(Canadian OH&S News) — The Occupational Health and Safety Tribunal Canada has granted a stay to security firm Brink’s Canada, on an August 18 directive ordering the company’s Edmonton branch to abandon the controversial “All off” model for armoured-car personnel.
Brink’s had received the order from Jason Elliott, a Labour Canada health and safety officer, who had written that the practice of having all guards exit an armoured car during pickups and drop-offs increased the risk of ambush from robbers (COHSN, Aug. 30). The company, which is appealing the order, received the stay on Sept. 12 following a series of written requests and telephone calls, according to a press release from the company, which called the initial ruling “improper” and based on a misreading of the Canada Labour Code.
“They said it’s a danger, and we don’t agree. That’s really the essence of it,” Paul Murray, the vice president of human resources and employee relations for Brink’s, told COHSN. “This model’s been in existence in the industry with competitors for some time, so that’s really the issue.”
In the “All off” method, an armoured car carries a two-person crew and both guards exit the vehicle when delivering or picking up goods. Brink’s adopted the model last autumn, and the company release referred to the practice as “proven in Canada, having been used by other competitors in the industry for over a decade.”
Murray did not specify why the company believed “All off” to be safe or why it was fighting to keep the model. But Mike Armstrong — a national staff representative with Unifor, the union that represents armoured-car guards nationally — accused Brink’s and similar security companies of just trying to save money.
“It’s pure economics,” said Armstrong. “You only have two people in the truck, and let’s say it’s $30 an hour for a person and benefits and pension. You’ve got three of them in there, that’s $90. You’ve only got two, it’s $60.”
Over the past two years, there have been 15 violent armoured-car robberies across Canada, and every one of them involved a two-person crew, Armstrong said. The safer alternative is to have a third employee, typically the driver, remain on the armoured car during stops to look out for suspicious people or vehicles.
“That person becomes the eyes and ears of that crew,” explained Armstrong. “They become, in fact, the guard. So they tell people, ‘Stay in,’ ‘Stay out,’ or ‘Come on out. It’s safe.’”
But with only two workers per crew, he continued, there is far less protection. “When somebody comes out of that location with no driver, they’re coming out blind. The majority of the robberies happen at night, so when you’re coming out in lower-lit areas, there may be some light outside of this bank or that bank, but you’re coming out in the dark. People are lurking in the shadows. They can hide behind the trucks.”
The vast majority of armoured-car robberies are committed by organized criminals, added Armstrong. “These are not mom and pop guys who are out having some fun and kicking tires,” he said. “There’s a mob, gangs, whatever, that are robbing or attempting to rob these vehicles.
The safety of armoured-car guards came under the spotlight in Edmonton after the fatal attempted robbery of a Garda World Security truck on July 8. One of the would-be robbers was shot by a guard; the other is still at large.
Despite the temporary reprieve for Brink’s, Armstrong was still hopeful that the appeal would not succeed. “Firmly, our union believes that the all-off model puts workers in danger,” he said.
“This is not the end of it. This is just a little bit like a step backwards.”