WorkSafe BC has completed its investigation into the Babine Forest Products mill explosion in Burns Lake on Jan. 20, 2012 and the Lakeland Mills Ltd. explosion in Prince George on April 23, 2012. The investigation has found violations of the Workers Compensation Act and the matter has been referred to Crown Counsel for consideration.
The Crown can prosecute the companies or individuals involved and may impose fines, prison terms, or both. Crown Counsel may also refer the file back to WorkSafe BC which can impose fines of up to $594,000 upon the companies involved.
In referring the case to Crown Counsel WorkSafe BC is not implying criminal negligence. It is reporting violations of the Workers Compensation Act and not the Criminal Code. WorkSafe BC only took over the investigation after the RCMP had released both accident sites.
Roberta Ellis, Senior Vice-President, Human Resources and Corporate Services with WorkSafe BC would not comment on the specific violations identified in the report and the full report of the investigation will not be immediately released as the investigation may still result in a prosecution.
“Four workers lost their lives, 42 workers were injured, some of them very seriously. These are serious matters with potentially very serious consequences,” Ellis said.
Two workers were killed and 19 injured in the Babine Forest Products Mill explosion. Two workers were killed and 23 injured at the Lakeland Mill explosion.
Despite the fatal consequences of the Worker Compensation Act violations identified, Ellis cautioned that no one should make assumptions about how Crown Counsel will proceed.
“I wouldn’t want the assumption to be made that in making the decision to refer the file to the crown that we are making any assumption whatsoever in regards to how the crown will proceed,” she said.
Hampton Affiliates was not happy with WorkSafe BC’s decision to withhold the findings of the report and to forward them to Crown Counsel. “We were surprised by this announcement and disappointed that we are not yet able to see the report of WorkSafe’s findings so that we can fully understand what happened that tragic night of the explosion,” said Steve Zika, Hampton’s chief executive officer.