The appeal process of a fine imposed by WorkSafeBC on Babine Forest Products in 2014 is still ongoing.
In April of 2014, the owners of Babine Forest Products were hit with a $1.01 million fine by WorkSafeBC for the explosion at the mill in 2012. The administrative penalty of $97,500 includes a claims cost levy of $914,139.62, for a total fine of $1,011,639.62.
According to Trish Knight Chernecki, a spokesperson for WorkSafeBC, it is still unclear how long this appeal process will take.
“It is a large undertaking,” she said.
The $1,011,639.62 penalty and cost claim levy was the largest in provincial history, and according to provincial jobs minister Shirley Bond, the maximum amount allowed under WorkSafeBC rules at that time.
The fine was issued after the Criminal Justice Branch announced it wasn’t proceeding with criminal charges against the owners of Babine Forest Products due to mistakes made by WorkSafeBC during the investigation.
Shortly after the fine was announced, Babine Forest Products issued a statement saying, “For WorkSafeBC to now propose a significant administrative penalty seems disingenuous, especially in light of this record, and the fact that WorkSafeBC must weigh the same considerations of due diligence as the Crown.”
Coroner’s inquests were held in 2015 into the Babine Forest Products explosion, as well as the explosion that occurred three months later at the Lakeland Mills sawmill in Prince George.
The inquest into the Babine explosion concluded Aug. 31, 2015, with 41 recommendations to improve safety in the industry. The deaths of Robert Luggi and Carl Charlie – both killed in the Babine explosion – were ruled accidental.
Earlier this year, five groups from across the province renewed their calls for a public inquiry into the 2012 Lakeland Mills and Babine explosions, saying the inquests held in 2015 left the families and the victims with “more questions than answers.”
The five groups include the United Steelworkers, the B.C. Federation of Labour, the First Nations Summit, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and the B.C. Assembly of First Nations.
A group of workers and family members of victims involved in the 2012 mill explosions launched a class-action lawsuit against WorkSafeBC and the province earlier this year.
The Babine and Decker Lake Forest Products sawmills are a joint venture between Hampton Affiliates and the Burns Lake Native Development Corporation. Hampton Affiliates, the majority shareholder in Babine Forest Products, is a family-owned forest products business headquartered in the U.S., with operations in Washington, Oregon and British Columbia.