In its mandate, Worksafe BC lists a cardinal purpose:
“To promote the prevention of workplace injury, illness, and disease.”
Following the Burns Lake and Prince George sawmill explosions, both in 2012, it is certain that Worksafe failed in this purpose. As a result, four forest workers are dead while others suffer with painful injuries and countless families face financial hardship.
To people studying workplace risks, dust explosions are well known hazards that can occur where any powdered combustible material is present in an enclosed atmosphere. Usually, protective strategies are in place and risks tempered. For example, the last significant grain dust explosion on Vancouver’s waterfront was 37 years ago.
Fine airborne dust was rarely, if ever, a concern throughout the history of British Columbia sawmilling. Green wood logs and hydraulic barkers produced low levels of potentially explosive very small particles. That changed when highly automated modern mills began processing old beetle-killed wood. Two catastrophic dust explosions in three months prove high risks.
It is early in the review process but blame can be reasonably assessed. Clearly, management of Babine Forest Products and Lakeland Mills deserve a share but I see the major failure resting with Worksafe BC, the public agency responsible for regulating workplace safety.
According to a Twitter post by Rod Mickleburgh of The Globe and Mail:
“WCB inspection report of Lakeland Mills found wood dust throughout the mill, this was two weeks after Burns Lake explosion.”
Worksafe BC should have been aware of dust explosion danger and they were aware of dust accumulation in the Lakeland Mills. Despite that, no remediation was ordered. I predict though that none of the agency’s very well paid senior officers will pay a price for the agency’s failures. Life in net-zero land has been good for them recently and, based on typical accountability of provincial executives, nothing will change.
Let’s have a look at the four senior executive who manage day to day affairs of Workplace BC and how the BC Liberal policy of net-zero has affected them: