Premier Calls for Review of Babine Blast Investigation
By 250 News
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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How about the UN?
Maybe Dennis Keith Rodman and his North Korean buddies?
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.
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.
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:
"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."
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.
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.
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.
Not one of them has any experience with this kind of issue.
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.
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.