Steelworkers: Crown Prosecutors Must Act Decisively in Response to Sawmill Tragedies

BURNABY, Nov. 29, 2012 /CNW/ - The United Steelworkers (USW) is urging Crown prosecutors to expedite the decision-making process and exercise their full authority in assessing WorkSafeBC's investigation reports into tragic sawmill explosions in northern B.C.

"Now that WorkSafeBC has completed its investigation, it is incumbent that Crown counsel use its full authority to prosecute any violations of workplace health and safety laws that contributed to these tragedies," said USW Western Canada Director Stephen Hunt.

"All measures must be taken to provide justice to the workers who were killed or injured and their families, and to help prevent similar tragedies in the future," Hunt said.

WorkSafeBC announced today that is has completed its investigations into a Jan. 20, 2012 explosion at the Babine Forest Products sawmill in Burns Lake and a similar explosion on April 23 this year at the Lakeland Mills sawmill in Prince George. Two workers were killed and 20 injured in Burns Lake and another two workers were killed and 22 injured in Prince George.

The USW represents workers at both sawmills.

WorkSafeBC said today it is referring the findings of its investigations into the tragedies to Crown prosecutors to consider possible violations under the Workers Compensation Act.

"We welcome the fact that the investigation has been completed, but we urge Crown Counsel to continue to move the process forward and ensure justice is done," Hunt said.

"The B.C. government also must commit to adopting the recommendations that come from this investigation to ensure that these tragedies can never occur again," he added.

The USW also is renewing its call for a formal review into the jurisdictions and collaborative procedures between government agencies responsible for workplace health and safety, Hunt said.

The USW previously sent the B.C. government a formal request for such a review, following disturbing revelations of a lack of coordination between government agencies responsible for workplace safety at the Burns Lake and Prince George sawmills.

The revelations included:

  • Babine Forest Products had not been inspected by government fire inspectors under either the federal or provincial fire safety code for several years;
  • The Prince George Fire Department had several inspection reports detailing concerns about combustible wood dust levels in Lakeland Mills;
  • WorkSafeBC had noted high levels of dust in both mills;
  • None of these agencies shared the information they held with any other agency.

"The United Steelworkers has made worker health and safety a top priority for the union and is committed to working with all levels of government to make improvements," Hunt said.

SOURCE: United Steelworkers (USW)

For further information:

Contacts:

Stephen Hunt, Director, 604-816-2554
Brad West, USW Communications, 604-754-1174, bwest@usw.ca