British Columbia

WorkSafeBC review to bring higher rate of prosecution

The B.C. government has ordered changes to the way WorkSafeBC conducts investigations following a review of the organization's mishandling of two fatal sawmill explosions.

Government accepts all 43 recommendations of report triggered by sawmill investigations

The lack of criminal charges laid in two fatal B.C. sawmill blasts - including Burns Lake sawmill (pictured) - led to the WorkSafeBC review. (CBC)

The B.C. government has ordered changes to the way WorkSafeBC conducts investigations following a review of the organization's mishandling of two fatal sawmill explosions.

B.C. Jobs Minister Shirley Bond said the government accepts and will implement all 43 recommendations listed in Gordon Macatee's 192-page review released Tuesday.

Bond said the protocol will strengthen investigations on many levels and should increase the likelihood of prosecutions in future cases.

The review was triggered after two separate investigations by WorkSafeBC into the fatal sawmill explosions in Northern B.C. in 2012 did not result in any criminal charges.

“I expect continued aggressive action by WorkSafeBC on sustained compliance at sawmills and other wood product manufacturers to enhance safety for workers,” Bond said in a statement released Tuesday.

“While we have seen continued improvement, mill operators need to achieve better compliance and the Action Plan will ensure that occurs.

“The families impacted by both the Babine and Lakeland incidents have been through so much,” Bond says in the statement.

“This Action Plan addresses the pressing need to both restore confidence in WorkSafeBC investigations and to make sure workers and families never again face circumstances like those at Babine and Lakeland.”

Key recommendations in the report include:

  • Move forward with the development of occupational health and safety policies to specify reasonable steps for employers, workers, and supervisors to take to address combustible dust hazards.
  • The Memorandums of Understanding with Police Services and the Memorandum of Understanding with the Criminal Justice Branch should be signed.
  • Implement the sustained compliance plan for sawmills as outlined in the report.
  • Develop a plan for ongoing inspection of other wood product manufacturers and pellet mills by WorkSafeBC Prevention Officers, with appropriate enforcement efforts to bring this sector into sustained compliance.

Read the full report:

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