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Students now protected under Ontario’s health and safety act

By Candice-Rose Gagnon [1]

BELLEVILLE – Interns and co-op students will have the same rights as their professional counterparts after the passing of Bill 18 in Ontario last week.

Previously, the definition of a “worker” under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act [2] did not include interns or co-op students – only those who worked for money. Most internships are unpaid in exchange for college or university credits and real work experience.

The new definition includes unpaid students, and will give them the same legal protection as their paid peers. Interns’ rights now include refusing unsafe work and the right to know about workplace hazards.

The change comes after three incidents over the last year of students in Ontario being involved in workplace accidents leading to death.

Loyalist College [3] students said they welcome the change, but worry about how this might affect their upcoming job placements.

First-year student Sarah Gale has to do 140 hours of an internship to complete her three-year accounting diploma at Loyalist. She said she worries it may be harder to find a willing company to hire her as an intern because of the changes in the law.

“It is great for us, but think about the businesses. They may be less likely to take on an intern now because of the risk or the maybe increase in fees,” Gale said.

Construction Renovation Techniques student Shane Kimball said he agrees with the change.

“It doesn’t matter who does the work. Everyone should be treated the same,” Kimball said.

Nick Tardif  has to complete an internship in the Photojournalism program. He said he thinks that all interns should be paid under the new legislation and that this bill should have been passed years ago.