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Groups release statement on sawmill safety

March 31, 2014, Victoria, B.C. - Government, the forest industry, organized labour and WorkSafeBC have issued the following statement today following their March 28 meeting in Vancouver focused on combustible dust and sawmill safety:

“We had a frank and open discussion on sustainable compliance at this meeting and the result is an aggressive co-ordinated plan to accomplish a number of specific outcomes in the next 90 days. That plan includes a number of key components:

  • The Council of Forest Industries will contemplate their ability to stipulate membership conditions related to compliance with the combustible dust strategy.
  • A team of technical experts will be established by industry and supported by WorkSafeBC to help all mills on compliance with the Workers Compensation Act and the occupational health and safety regulation.
  • The Manufacturers’ Advisory Group, made up of a dozen companies which account for about 75% of B.C.’s lumber production, has developed a Dust Mitigation and Control Audit protocol and is offering it to mills of every size throughout B.C. The group will use its expertise and resources to ensure that best practices regarding sawmill dust risk reduction are shared with any company needing help within the Province.
  • At organized labour’s request, this Audit Tool will be reviewed by all parties to evaluate it as an enforceable standard. WorkSafeBC has agreed to lead that discussion.
  • Sawmill employers, organized labour, and WorkSafeBC will launch an awareness campaign on workers’ rights in refusing unsafe work. A toolbox kit on the issue will be provided by WorkSafeBC to employers, health and safety committees, and health and safety representatives in all sawmills.
  • WorkSafeBC will double the size of the designated inspection team to 20 and launch further sawmill inspections during Phase 4 of their Sawmill Inspection Initiative. The focus of this phase will be on companies, which were found to be out of compliance, particularly in Phase 3, but all sawmills will be included.
  • WorkSafeBC will write to the 61 sawmills with combustible dust compliance issues during Phase 3 to set expectations for the next round of inspections. Where there is repeat non-compliance, WorkSafeBC Officers will consider penalties.
  • WorkSafeBC is currently reviewing its Occupational Health and Safety Policy with a focus, at this stage, on high-risk violations and the consequences for non-compliance. The elements that can lead to a dust explosion will be included.
  • All parties agreed to continue the dialogue from the meeting on April 1, 2014, when WorkSafeBC hosts a joint meeting with industry and labour at the COFI convention in Kelowna.

All of us agree that the overarching concern here is every worker has the right to a safe workplace and to come home safe at the end of their shift.”

March 31, 2014  By  Andrew Macklin

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