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USW welcomes BC government review of WorkSafeBC actions in sawmill explosions


April 11, 2019
By United Steelworkers

The United Steelworkers (USW) is welcoming today’s announcement by the government of British Columbia that Vancouver lawyer Lisa Helps has been retained to assess the actions of WorkSafeBC in relation to sawmill explosions at Babine Forest Products and Lakeland Mills.

The explosions in 2012 killed four workers and injured dozens more in the communities of Burns Lake and Prince George. The USW has been fighting for answers and justice for the victims and families who continue to be affected by the tragic events.

“For seven years, we have been standing with victims, families and community members who have been desperate for answers,” said USW District 3 Director Stephen Hunt. “Through the Coroners’ Inquests, the Dyble Report and the Macatee Report, we learned that WorkSafeBC failed to live up to its responsibility to protect the health and safety of workers.”

Hunt cited the revelation emanating from a Steelworker FOI request that WorkSafeBC circulated an internal document following the explosion at Babine Forest Products and prior to the explosion at Lakeland Mills. The document, which stated WorkSafeBC was concerned that an enforcement strategy to address wood dust in sawmills would lead to industry pushback, continues to be a damning indictment of the agency’s culture and needs to be addressed, he said.

“I’m grateful that the government of British Columbia is taking this important step to address the many concerns that remain with the actions of WorkSafeBC with the intention of providing recommendations to ensure that similar tragedies are prevented. The United Steelworkers looks forward to participating fully in this process,” Hunt said.

A report, including recommendations, will be delivered to the attorney general by mid-July 2019. After review, the attorney general will make public any recommendations related to improving processes or legislation.

The United Steelworkers’ “Stop The Killing, Enforce The Law” campaign has been focused on lobbying governments at every level to protect the health and safety of all workers and ensuring that the Westray Law is applied when appropriate.