British Columbia

Burns Lake sawmill blast probe 'deeply disappointed' Christy Clark

B.C. Premier Christy Clark says she's "deeply disappointed" with the WorkSafeBC investigation into the fatal explosion at the Burns Lake sawmill, but there will be no provincial inquiry.

B.C. premier orders WorkSafeBC to fix investigational shortcomings after probe into fatal explosion

B.C. Premier Christy Clark says she expects changes in the way WorkSafeBC conducts investigations. (CBC)

Premier Christy Clark says she is "deeply disappointed" with how the investigation into the fatal explosion at the Burns Lake sawmill was handled by WorkSafeBC, but there will be no provincial inquiry.

Clark made the comments following the release of a report on the investigation by her deputy minister Ken Dyble, entitled The Babine Explosion Investigation: Fact Patterns and Recommendations.

The report found WorkSafeBC paid insufficient attention to important legal precedents that underpin the legitimate gathering of evidence for prosecution purposes, even though the Criminal Justice Branch had previously shared its concerns on collection of evidence.

The explosion at the Babine Forest Products sawmill in Burns Lake, B.C, in January, 2012 killed two men and injured 19 others. (CBC)

"Although it appears this was a difference of legal opinions, the importance of the issue must be fully acknowledged, along with the severity of its possible impacts." said a statement released by Clark.

Clark said she met with the head of WorkSafeBC on Thursday morning and told him investigative shortcomings in the organization "must be fixed."

Vancouver lawyer Len Doust has been hired as an independent legal advisor to ensure WorkSafeBC investigation issues are fixed according to the report's recommendations, said Clark.

Two people were killed and 19 others were seriously injured when an explosion destroyed the Babine Forest Products sawmill in Burns Lake in January 2012.

Investigation guidelines not followed   

In January of this year, Crown prosecutors said that because the WorkSafeBC investigation didn't follow certain guidelines, no criminal charges could be laid.

Provincial Crown counsel spokesperson Neil Mackenzie said WorkSafeBC did not follow the rules for conducting a criminal investigation and that would likely result in a significant amount of evidence having to be thrown out.

Those rules included obtaining a search warrant to gather evidence, and warning officials of their rights. 

In a written statement, WorkSafeBC responded that it conducted its investigation under the Workers Compensation Act, as it has for many other cases involving injury and death.

It points out the remaining admissible evidence supports a number of potential offences under provincial law, including the theory the explosion was linked to an accumulation of sawdust in the mill.

Following the fire and explosion, the B.C. Safety Authority, a separate independent agency that monitors the safety and licensing of technical systems and equipment, investigated and issued nine recommendations about wood dust management. It also called for improvements to natural gas and propane codes.