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Premier Calls for Review of Babine Blast Investigation

By 250 News

Thursday, January 16, 2014 02:47 PM

Prince George, B.C.- Although the Crown has  decided not to pursue charges in the  explosion and fire at the Babine Forest Products sawmill which claimed two lives and left 20 other workers  injured, Premier Christy Clark  has  asked the head of the BC Civil Service, Deputy Minister John Dyble,  to  review the case.  Crown had  said  it could not proceed with charges because it was believed some of the evidence  would be  inadmissible because of the manner in which it had been collected.

In her address  to the Truck Loggers Association today, Premier Clark  says she has  called up Dyble to “Give us the facts, so we know and understand what happened with the investigation  and the decisions   around it.”   She says  she has  called for  this review “To help us understand how the case was  handled and then  to report back  to me urgently with recommendations.”

Premier Clark   says  in order for justice to be done, it must be seen to be done, "And we cannot do that, if we don’t have the facts.  Those facts will  lead us to  any actions that we need to take.  The people of Burns Lake deserve nothing less, as do all the workers in our province.”

WorkSafeBC  has  released its final report on the  January 20th 2012  fire and explosion.  It says the  tragedy was preventable,  that the  blast was likely  ignited by a  smouldering fire in a conveyor  belt motor that was badly clogged with  wood dust. 

The report says there was excessive  wood dust  in the mill,  and the dust collection system was undersized.

Although  the Crown  is not pursuing   charges with regard to Babine Forest Products,  WorkSafeBC says its officers are considering enforcement action under the Workers Compensation Act.

Meantime,   even though  WorkSafe has been  making it public that  it would be  conducting inspections  through to the end of January,  there are still problems being detected in sawmills throughout BC.  146 sawmills are being inspected , of which 131 have been visited.  Those visits have resulted in 86 orders being written, 12 stop work orders issued,  3 warning letters  issued, and 19 penalties under consideration.

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BC liberal government investigating the BC liberal government. Any guess on how this will turn out?
Worksafe failed in its own prevention and heads should roll at the top rather than give themselves and industry a bonus for saving money... its a shame workers always come last
Would you like the Harper Government to investigate the BC Liberal Government?

How about the UN?

Maybe Dennis Keith Rodman and his North Korean buddies?
There is always recourse under Civil Law, so it ain't over till its over.
No, there is no recourse under Civil Law. WCB was an entity created soley to protect the employer from being sued. It is not there for protection of the worker but rather protection of the employer.
There is recourse under criminal law, section 217.1 of the Canada Criminal Code which resulted from the Westray mine incident.
It really comes as no surprise to me that WorkSafe is basically saying that responsibility for the accident rests squarely on Managements shoulders. Some of the most arrogant people I know are managers. The whole 'I'm right and you're wrong' attitude is prevalent throughout the industry.

There is no working WITH these people. If you don't tow the line, you're down the road OR you're constantly butting heads with them because of the protection you get from the union.

I am willing to bet that there was some diligent workers at that mill who mentioned that they needed to clean the place up. And I am also willing to bet Management told them that production was too high a priority and they'll get to it during a down day or on the weekend. Happens all the time. Production trumps worker safety every day, all day.
Uh, fricnfrac, worksafe will and does clean employers' clocks on a daily basis! You can go on their site and view the bi- monthly infractions list under publications/worksafe magazine. They do not care how large or small of an employer you are, if you are remotely at fault , you are in deep doo da! Oh and the "sue your employee" if you choose to, didn't change until around 1996 or so. So ya, now worksafe cleans employers clocks, and i wouldn't want to be the one scrapping with the board. Worksafe is very serious and has zero tolerance with crappy employers.
Sorry, meant to say "sue your employer"
bullcrap worksafe bc is appointed by the libs, run by libs, bonuses by the libs, good luck nothing will come out of this Christie is just quacking again as she waddles up to the podium and it will all be swept under the carpet just wait and see
If I was rich and owned a blown up sawmill, I surely wouldn't rebuild it if there were criminal charges in my future.
Thank you, checkitout, for adding a dose of truth to counter the anti emploer rhetoric in some of the other comments.
Yes indeed, most, if not all employers take Worksafe BC very seriously, and try to follow their rules, not only for the health and safety of the employee, but because Worksafe BC can and will fall upon employers like a ton of bricks. Employee health and safety is truly top priority with any thinking business owner and management team, after all, without the employee, what do you have? Answer:
no one there to do the work that supports the business.

Having said that, the Premier was busy blowing smoke in her address to the Truck Loggers, sounds like she needs friends.
Posted by: gus on January 16 2014 6:20 PM
There is recourse under criminal law
"Crown had said it could not proceed with charges" Unless that changes criminal liability (217.1 of the criminal code) is dead in the water - this does not allow for a civil claim, just a criminal one.

As for the civil case:
"Workers’ compensation is a no fault system. This means that workers injured in the course of their employment get compensation benefits whether or not they are at fault, or whether or not their employer is at fault. Lawsuits for injuries are different from compensation and require that the person being sued is at fault."

"A worker injured in the course of employment cannot sue his or her employer, any other employer, or any worker who is a part of the B.C. workers’ compensation system and whose activities relating to the accident or disease also arose out of and in the course of employment."

"If the injury was caused by an accident where nobody is at fault or the only person who is at fault is another B.C. worker or employer in the course of employment you do not have the choice of suing."

A tragic crane mishap - no criminal charges to date:
PS checkitout: Sue your employer changed in 1917

"WorkSafeBC was born from the historic compromise between B.C.’s workers and employers in 1917 where workers gave up the right to sue their employers and fellow workers for injuries on the job in return for a no-fault insurance program fully paid for by employers."
Slinky, i was extremely injured by a sleazebag employer in the nineties , and in icu for 3 months alone. I was in several hospitals for nine months, and five years of tune up surgeries. My world famous (not kidding) lawyer gave me a choice to sue my employer or let worksafe take care of me. The only thing i had to do was not accept money from worksafe to proceed against the employer. I still remain friends with the lawyer and tease him when he is on tv, and yes he told me that after my case the bc laws were changed and now the board goes after the employer, not the employee. I subscribe to osha magazine and have never seen any cases listed otherwise, as well
I agree with Metalman. Few people who are not on the employers's side of the fence have any clue about recent developments in the now vast array of requirements we are compelled to try to comply with.

I believe most employers take workplace safety very seriously and do their best to operate safely. We do not want the consequences of intentional carelessness on our consciences ~ our employees are also our neighbours and friends.

It was mentioned in one of the news stories that before the explosion Babine realised their dust extraction system was inadequate now for the amount of additional dust being generated through milling more dead and dry pine, (which they are compelled to do if they want to keep running), and planned to install a larger system.

This also meant a major upgrade to their electrical service, which was already up to its full capacity.

The inference of some on here is that they should have shut the mill down and done this, and in retrospect maybe they should have.

But look at it from the employer's point of view, where it is not always such a simple matter when ALL the effects of doing what you know needs to be done are taken into consideration.

Dragonmaster, for one, seems to feel that everyone who owns a business, and particularly a large business, is 'rich'.

Let me ask you, Dragonmaster, do you think the owners of Babine have a 'money bin' somewhere, where they have a huge stash of cash that could pay for any improvements they want to make to their mill just by dipping into it?

If you do, you've got a highly distorted perception of the reality of operating any business in the modern world.

To pay for the kind of improvement Babine knew they needed there are only two sources of funds. Retained earnings, if they actually have been retained in the form of 'cash on hand, or in the bank'; or borrowing the needed funds from a Bank.

In light of the recent recession in the lumber markets, it is highly unlikely that Babine was particularly 'flush with funds'. It is very likely that whatever funds they did have would be fully committed already to trying to keep the operation solvent and still able to operate.

As for borrowing the funds, Banks do not readily lend to operations that cannot show a profit, and demonstrate that that profit can be maintained over the term of the loan.

And if the Company were to borrow for a larger dust extraction system could they clearly demonstrate sufficient cost savings from its installation to justify the loan? Remember now, the banker is NOT directly concerned with 'workplace safety'. And an argument that a larger dust removal system is needed to improve working conditions is not going to cut it with him.

He's a 'figures' man, and in an uncertain market with still uncertain prospects for continued profitability, or sufficient enhancement of same, Babine would likely have some difficulty getting the credit needed.

So what are they supposed to do? If they increase production, which is the only way to generate funds internally, they make more dust. If they spend more on clean-up the option of internally generated funds vanishes. Does the government tell the Banks they HAVE to lend to outfits like Babine "in the interests of workplace safety" so they can deal with any perceived problems? Let alone ones that might never be perceived?

Look at the WHOLE picture before you're so quick to condemn the employers. Our necks are always in the noose. Ask yourself if you'd want to be one. And if the risk still justifies the reward, especially in times where there is little or none.
There have been fires in sawmills as long as there have been sawmills.
To my knowlwedge, this was the first explosion of this magnitude in the history of saw milling in BC.
From what I read, BFP housekeeping standards were average or better.
If these conclusions are correct then the calls for criminal charges are either seeking revenge or cash awards.
Sometimes the worst happens and there is no one to blame.
Is the review going to make any difference to the injured. They are being taken care off by Worksafe BC.

Worksafe BC has been very diligent about the subject of running the beetle kill wood and what it does to the mill environment. Thus after Lakelands, all the mill operators make no hesitations to complying with Worksafe BC.

Is the mills to blame for it all. I think the potential was really not recognized as a real threat until it actually happened. Its obvious why it happened now, we made our changes and are now moving forward.

Its done, leave it alone, we all learned our lessons of the potential and we all respect it. Compensate the injured well, take care of all their health care needs for the rest of their lives. Should the injured worker make excess profit from it. I think full payment of wages until age 65, is reasonable. Plus $100k tax free for pain and suffering.
Im having a tough time believing it was just a dust blast!!!! Sounds like we need someone with some experience looking into these things. I have worked in places monitored by WCB and the Safety Authority, not only are they not on the same page , every region is monitored and can't agree on how to interpret the regulations. Frustrating!!!!!!!
Not one of them has any experience with this kind of issue.
Posted by: checkitout on January 17 2014 5:38 AM - My world famous (not kidding) lawyer gave me a choice to sue my employer or let worksafe take care of me. The only thing i had to do was not accept money from worksafe to proceed against the employer.

That is still the case today, you can sue the employer direct or collect WCB but not both (it should be at the bottom of the first link Worksafe FAQ). If you chose to sue the employer you are on the hook for all the lawyers costs and if you win you do get some of that back (but not all), plus you have to prove willful negligence which is fairly difficult because you cannot call any Worksafe employee as a witness. You can use their written findings but that is all. Worksafe fines the employer and any claims against an employer from their employees affect their premiums for 3 years so pensions do not affect an employers record if given to an employee (unless given in a lump sum within the 3 years). The other downfall is if you sue the employer (which can take over 3 years to come to trial) you take the risk of forfeiting any WCB you are eligible for if you lose your court case, plus you are on hook for some of the employers court costs.

If you claim compensation Worksafe does the suing of the employer or fining or warnings depending on what they deem fit. The fines for employers are based on percentage of payroll, so smaller companies get smaller fines than large national ones with a lot of employees.
Posted by: TheJackyl on January 17 2014 10:52 AM Im having a tough time believing it was just a dust blast!

As do I, the dust can carry the blast but usually dust in open air does not explode. Dust in an enclosed room can - and has - but has always been confined to that room and never has carried on to the rest of the mill. But we must leave these in the hands of the experts to figure out. Whatever happened with the complaints of natural gas smell from the workers, it kind of vanished after the first few weeks of the blast?

The explosion at Lakeland was felt in College Heights, there have been reports of methane in test wells in that area...but then again we have to leave that up to the experts.
Apparently my rich mill owner comment went over your head Socred. Carry on.