A government review into how WorkSafeBC responded to the deadly Babine sawmill explosion 2012 has wrapped up. The Ministry of the Attorney General contracted a lawyer to conduct the review of WorkSafeBC. (Black Press Media file photo)

Mill blast safety measures review ends

The government is wrapping up a review on how industries and other agencies have implemented safety recommendations following the explosion at the Babine sawmill in Burns Lake in 2012.

The review began in April and the lawyer conducting the assessment was gathering information from residents of Burns Lake last week.

LOOK BACK: New review of worker safety underway seven years after B.C. mill explosions

Vancouver criminal defense lawyer Lisa Helps was undertaking the Burns Lake portion of the research for about one week until July 10.

The Ministry of the Attorney General contracted Helps to conduct a review of how government safety agency WorkSafeBC responded to several investigations and reports related to the Jan. 20, 2012 explosion, which left two people dead and dozens injured.

WorkSafeBC did its own probe into the deadly accident in 2012.

READ MORE: WorkSafe BC investigation into mill explosions complete

Helps was also tasked with seeking input from staff from the ministries of the Attorney General, Public Safety and Solicitor General, and Labour, as well as from workers affected by the explosions and their families.

“Any actions and changes I recommend could directly affect worker safety,” Helps said in a letter.

Responding to an inquiry from Lakes District News, the lawyer said her findings in Burns Lake would be confidential until the provincial government releases the report.

Even though the sawmill blast took place more than seven years ago, Helps’ review was aimed at assessing how effective the responses to previous investigations have been.

“Several reviews took place in the aftermath of the explosions (eg. 2014 Dyble and Macatee reports, 2015 BC Coroner’s Inquest, as well as investigations by WorkSafeBC and the B.C. Safety Authority – now known as Technical Safety BC),” said Julianna McCaffrey, Communications Director with the Ministry of Labour.

“Arising out of those reviews were many recommendations to the industry, to ministries and agencies that responded to the 2012 explosions. The purpose of this study is to assess how the recommendations have been implemented, whether they’re adequate and effective, and to see if any additional safety improvements are still needed to help prevent similar tragedies from happening again.”

WorkSafeBC, for its part welcomed the review, as Ralph Eastman, Senior Manager for Government and Media Relations explained.

“We are always looking for ways to improve the health and safety of B.C. workplaces, and we look forward to seeing any recommendations that can help us make our province a safer place to work,” he said.

Steve Zika, CEO of Hampton Lumber that owns the Babine Forest Products mill, said the company was asked to provide comments as part of the review.

“At this time we are focused on the future and have no comment on this matter.”

The report, along with recommendations will be passed onto the attorney general by mid-July. Following a review period, the report’s recommendations would be made public, though the Ministry of Labour spokesperson could not specify when that would happen.

Blair McBride
Multimedia reporter
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