February 12, 2015 - 8:27 AM
VICTORIA - The B.C. government is introducing legislation that would allow for the prosecution of negligent employers whose actions seriously injure or kill workers.
Labour Minister Shirley Bond said the legislation she was expected to table Wednesday will allow for on-the-spot penalties and is based on recommendations in a report into two separate sawmill explosions that killed four workers in 2012.
She said provisions will not include naming non-compliant employers because of privacy issues, but that information would become public anyway through any court process.
"There is policy work underway but there are a number of mechanisms in the bill that will deal with those employers that are blatantly and continuously out of compliance."
WorkSafeBC administrator Gord Macatee said the bill provides exactly what he intended in the report he forwarded to the government last July.
He said staff have received training involving searches and seizures, warrants and forensic interviewing and that a second team will take over when there's the potential for liability involving workplace incidents.
Bond called the legislation transformative, saying it would give judges the ability to rule that an employer will not continue operating in a particular industry.
"I want families to know today that it is intended to improve worker safety so that we don't have others face the horrific circumstances that they have faced," she said.
Accumulation of combustible dust at the mills is believed to be a major contributing factor in both mill explosions.
Macatee said 96 mills that did not have compliance issues have voluntarily taken part in a daily inspection program, with weekly reporting to WorkSafe.
"It really underlines the seriousness with which the industry has taken the combustible dust issue," he said.
The Crown declined to approve charges against Babine Forest Products in Burns Lake and Lakeland Mills in Prince George, in part over concerns that evidence collected by WorkSafeBC wouldn't be admissible in court.
Inquests into both blasts are scheduled — starting next month in the Lakeland Mills case and in July for the Babine explosion.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2015