Theresa and Kenny Michell call for mill safety improvements at the B.C. legislature

New powers for WorkSafeBC after sawmill blasts

Investigators hired to impose penalties, protect evidence and shut down unsafe workplaces

VICTORIA – The B.C. government is giving WorkSafeBC new powers to shut down workplaces, impose penalties on the spot, collect evidence and compel payment of fines against employers who don’t comply with safety rules.

Jobs Minister Shirley Bond has introduced legislation to complete the overhaul of WorkSafeBC in the wake of the 2012 sawmill explosions in Burns Lake and Prince George that killed four workers and injured 44 more.

The amendments will give the B.C. Supreme Court authority to order work to stop due to unsafe conditions and “expand the court’s authority to bar the worst offenders from continuing to operate in an industry,” Bond told the legislature Wednesday.

Bond ordered a review of WorkSafeBC investigation procedures after Crown prosecutors said they would not lay charges, because potential court evidence was not adequately protected in the Babine and Lakeland sawmill investigations.

Gord Macatee, the official in charge of the review, said the legislation will complete his recommended changes by June. It also puts the onus on employers to show that they have done “due diligence” to prevent accidents, instead of leaving it to WorkSafeBC to decide.

A new team of WorkSafeBC investigators has been trained to step in for cases that could result in negligence charges, Macatee said. And extra inspectors have been hired to monitor sawmills and other businesses on nights and weekends.

“At this point we have 16 prevention officers on regular night and weekend shift schedule, and 26 additional officers have been recruited who will be working on those shifts as well,” Macatee said.

Inspections were stepped up in all B.C. wood products mills after the fatal explosions of fine dry wood dust. Macatee said most mills have had safe dust control and other safety practices since before the explosions, but there have been cases where employers didn’t comply or pay penalties ordered by WorkSafeBC.

“We’ve seen situations where an operator will go out of business and re-emerge under a different corporate name and go on and do the same kind of work,” Macatee said.

 

Just Posted

VIDEO TOUR: Eagle Pass Lodge recognized at Thompson Okanagan Kootenay Commercial Building Awards

Eagle Pass Heli Skiing’s lodge is located south of Revelstoke on Highway 23

Voting Day: Here’s what you need to know

Voting stations are open until 8 p.m.

Kids have fun at the Mountain Harvest Festival

The Begbie View Elementary School gym was packed Friday night with Halloween activities

Former Vernon man guilty of Japanese exchange student’s murder

Natsumi Kogawa was found at empty heritage mansion shortly after she was reported missing in 2016

Columbia Shuswap Regional District establishing junior firefighter program

Aimed at youth 15-17 in Columbia Shuswap region to help with training and potential recruitment

Cough cough: Kelowna MLA gets flu shot to prep for the cold season

Steve Thomson got his flu shot from Lakeside Medicine Centre Friday

‘Mom, I’m in trouble:’ Canadian faces 10 years for alleged graffiti

Brittney Schneider, another tourist caught spraying message on walls of Tha Pae Gate in Thailand

Feds consulting on national anti-racism strategy behind closed doors

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez says people still face systemic racism in some communities

Black trucks figure prominently in Shuswap thefts

Chase RCMP investigating stolen vehicles from several communities

Enbridge aims for mid-November to finish B.C. pipeline repair after blast

A natural gas pipeline that ruptured and burned near Prince George caused an explosion and fireball

How to get government cheques if Canada Post staff go on strike

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers said members could go on rotating strikes as early as Monday

Anti-SOGI school trustee files defamation lawsuit against BCTF president

Barry Neufeld says Glen Hansman’s words caused him “indignity,” “personal harassment,” and “anxiety”

Ocean ‘blob’ returns to B.C.’s North Coast

A 2,000 kilometre patch of warm ocean water could signal a warm winter in Prince Rupert

Pot sales down by nearly 70% on Day 2 of legalization in B.C.

Several products on BC Cannabis Store are still sold out

Most Read