British Columbia

Babine Forest Products fined $1M for Burns Lake sawmill explosion

The owners of the Babine Forest Products sawmill in Burns Lake, B.C., have been hit with a fine of more than $1 million for a fatal explosion at the mill in 2012.

Blast that killed 2 workers and injured 19 others blamed on excessive wood dust

The Babine Forest Products sawmill in Burns Lake, B.C., was completely destroyed in the explosion and subsequent fire on Jan. 20, 2012. Two workers died and 19 others were injured.

The owners of the Babine Forest Products sawmill in Burns Lake, B.C., have been hit with a fine of nearly $1 million by WorkSafeBC for the fatal explosion at the mill in 2012.

The fine comes after the Criminal Justice Branch announced it wasn't proceeding with criminal charges against the owners because of mistakes made by WorkSafeBC during their investigation.

Two workers were killed and 19 others injured when the Burns Lake mill exploded in January 2012. The explosion was blamed on dangerous levels of wood dust from milling trees that had been killed by mountain pine beetles.

On Thursday, WorkSafeBC announced an administrative penalty has been imposed against Babine Forest Products Ltd. for $97,500.00, along with a claims cost levy of $914,139.62 for a total fine of $1,011,639.62.

"The dollar value of a penalty or levy does not and cannot reflect the loss of lives and the pain and suffering of workers and families," said the statement issued by WorkSafeBC.

Jobs Minister Shirley Bond says the fine is likely the largest ever handed out in B.C. and the maximum amount allowed under current WorkSafeBC rules.

"I just want to assure British Columbians that WorkSafeBC​ took all of the discretion that they had, used the tools available to them," said Bond.

"To describe this as simply cost recovery is inaccurate. This company will be required to pay a million dollars."

Company plans to appeal fine

In a statement issued Thursday, a spokesperson for Babine Forest Products Ltd. said the company regretted the events of Jan. 20, 2012, but was disappointed with the fine and intended to appeal.

"The Crown counsel determined that evidence of Babine’s due diligence in managing foreseeable risks was enough to counter the charges recommended by WorkSafe BC under the Workers Compensation Act.

"Crown counsel also concluded that WorkSafe BC did not perform an appropriate investigation of the accident. Based on that independent ruling, no charges were pursued.

"For WorkSafe BC to now propose a significant administrative penalty seems disingenuous, especially in light of this record, and the fact that WorkSafe BC must weigh the same considerations of due diligence as the Crown."

News of the fine was leaked earlier Thursday morning by B.C. NDP Leader Adrian Dix, who was critical of the decision, saying the punitive aspect of the fine of was too little.           

The NDP has been calling for a full public inquiry into the blast, but the B.C. government says it has been fully investigated.

The company and others tied to the explosion have the right to appeal the decision.

Read Babine Forest Products' statement