Babine mill will appeal fine

Babine Forest Products Ltd. will appeal last week’s Worksafe BC order that it pay $1.01 million.

Babine Forest Products Ltd. (BFP) will appeal last week’s Worksafe BC order that it pay $1.01 million in administrative penalties and claims cost levies in connection with the fatal January 2012 fire at its sawmill here.

Although the Workers Compensation Act of B.C. authorizes B.C.’s safety watchdog to issue fines and penalties in connection with workplace accidents, it also gives employers, workers, and other affected parties the right to appeal them. BFP spokesmen said the company fully intends to exercise its rights in this regard.

“We intend to appeal these proposed fines through the appropriate process,” said the company in a statement issued April 3.

Babine Forest Products officials said they were disappointed with Worksafe BC’s decision, particularly in light of the fact that the province’s criminal justice branch announced several months ago that it wouldn’t be pursuing criminal charges against the company.

“We were disappointed to learn today that Worksafe BC is attempting to fine Babine Forest Products Ltd. approximately $1 million related to the tragic accident that occurred on Jan. 20, 2012 in Burns Lake,” stated company officials in their statement. “The Crown counsel determined that evidence of Babine’s due diligence in managing foreseeable risks was enough to counter the charges recommended by Worksafe BC under the Workers Compensation Act. Crown counsel also concluded that Worksafe BC did not perform an appropriate investigation of the accident. Based on that independent ruling, no charges were pursued.

“For Worksafe BC to now propose a significant administrative penalty seems disingenuous, especially in light of this record and the fact that Worksafe BC must weigh the same considerations of due diligence as the Crown.”

Babine Forest Products has less than 90 days to request that Worksafe BC’s Review Division take a second look at the penalty and claims cost levy imposed April 3. If dissatisfied with the Review Division’s findings, the company can then file an appeal with the Workers Compensation Appeal Tribunal.

While BFP officials were adamant about their intention to appeal last week’s order, they stated that their decision “should not be taken out of context.”

“Babine regrets terribly the tragic accident that occurred the night of Jan. 20, 2012,” they stressed. “Our sorrow, both for our people impacted and the community of Burns Lake, will always be present.”

Babine Forest Products officials said that since the fatal fire, they have worked diligently with other industry leaders to analyze dust risks and develop related processes to ensure incidents like the one that destroyed the Babine mill “never happen again.” The company, they added, has invested heavily in specialized dust control equipment.

“Since the accident, we have installed millions of dollars of specialized equipment at Decker Lake (Forest Products) and the new Babine sawmill to make our operations cleaner and safer in relation to this risk,” the spokesmen stated. “We have recently started up the new sawmill at Burns Lake and will continue to focus on making this a safe start-up for our employees and a successful long-term business for our stakeholders.”