(Canadian OH&S News) — The federal labour ministry has issued a directive to the Edmonton branch of Brinks Canada Limited, a nationwide company that transports cash and other valuable goods, to alter its practice of having both the guard and driver of an armoured car exit the vehicle at pickups and drop-offs.
The routine, known as the “All off” model, is widely considered dangerous to armoured-car staff, as it increases the risk of assault during robbery attempts.
“The model does not provide the employees with any information of suspicious persons or activities occurring outside while they are inside the customer’s location,” wrote Jason Elliott, the author of the directive. “As a result, the employees have a diminished ability to avoid a potential ambush upon returning to the armoured vehicle.”
In an e-mailed response, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) declined to discuss any specifics of the directive, as well as the Ministry of Labour investigation that led to it.
“The Labour Program believes every employee has the right to a safe workplace and to return home safely at the end of their work day,” said ESDC. “The Canada Labour Code requires employers to implement preventive measures to ensure employees are not exposed to conditions that could be harmful to their health or safety.”
Brinks’ Edmonton location did not respond to COHSN’s request for comment. Media reports have stated that the company is appealing the order.
Unifor, the union that represents armoured-car guards across the country among many other workers, welcomed the government order as a “life-saving” move in an Aug. 22 press release.
“This is a tremendous step forward for the safety of all armoured-car workers,” Unifor national staff representative Mike Armstrong, who leads the union on armoured-car-industry matters, said in a media statement. “We now look to the entire industry to eliminate the unnecessary danger associated with ‘All off’ crews.”
Armstrong added that Unifor was looking forward to working with its industry partners in implementing new safety protocols for armoured-car guards. “These employees face potential danger on every shift,” he said.
The directive comes in the wake of a fatal robbery attempt that occurred in Edmonton on July 8, when two men pepper-sprayed the guards of a Garda World Security armoured truck while demanding cash at a TD Canada Trust branch. One of the would-be robbers, Randy James Munian, was shot and killed by one of the two guards. The second suspect escaped and is yet to be apprehended.
After the Garda incident, Unifor publicly urged the federal government to pass Bill C-285, a private member’s bill that would regulate crew sizes, vehicle specifications, safety equipment and other safety and training standards in the armoured-car sector (COHSN, July 12). The bill was tabled by Burnaby-New Westminster, B.C. MP Peter Julian.
There have been 85 armoured-car robberies in Canada since 2000, according to statistics from Unifor; five fatalities have resulted from these incidents. Over the past three years, every armoured-car robbery that has been publicly reported involved a vehicle crew of only two people.
The Ministry reportedly launched the Brinks investigation when an armoured-car guard in Edmonton refused to work after he was assigned to a two-guard vehicle.
“The investigation is ongoing,” said ESDC about the Brinks situation.