WorkSafe B.C. still investigating Babine Forest Products explosion and fire

Investigation to determine the cause of the explosion and fire at Babine Forest Products is continuing with more than 20 investigators.

Scott McCloy WorkSafe B.C.’s director of communications said the investigation to determine the cause of the Jan. 20, 2012 explosion and fire at Babine Forest Products is continuing with more than 20 investigators now involved.

“A number of key areas continue to be examined and the investigation team is also reviewing all of the evidence gathered to date, including dozens of interviews,” he said.

According to McCloy, there is still a number of areas of the sawmill that are yet to be examined.

“No date has been set for the return of the site to Hampton Affiliates although the team is working as quickly as possible to find answers.”

McCloy said WorkSafe B.C.’s claims team has set up office in the basement of the Lakes District Hospital, which he said will remain open to enable injured workers and their families ask any questions they may have about their claim or the status of their recovery and return to work.

“The team will be in place for several months to come to ensure employee’s ongoing needs are addressed,” McCloy said.

Bob Matters from the United Steelworkers Wood Council said they are also working to address Babine Forest Products employees needs.

“Life claims are being processed and other claims are being handled by the local office 1-424 in Prince George,” he said.

“Babine Forest Products employees can find work elsewhere without worrying about it affecting their severance pay, as long as they don’t formally terminate their employment with Babine Forest Products and he encouraged all employees to look for alternative work,” he said.

Matters advised those employees thinking of not looking for work and instead filing a WorkSafe B.C. claim, to file one, but he cautioned that employees should only file a claim with WorkSafe B.C. if they have medical support to backup the claim. He said, “I would question the success of any new claim that was not a direct result of the [Jan. 20, 2012] incident.”

According to Matters, hold ups in employment insurance payments due to issues with holiday pay are being dealt with by the union, but he added that employment insurance rules will not be changed for Burns Lake.

While the union is not offering any debt counseling advice to Babine Forest Products employees, Matters said, “Most of the financial institutions have contacted our members and offered advice on repayment options.”