Lakeland Mills, owner of the Prince George, B.C., sawmill that exploded on April 23, 2012, breached the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation and violated the Workers Compensation Act, WorkSafe BC has ruled.
Despite the province’s Criminal Justice Branch declining to lay charges over worries evidence wouldn’t hold up in court, WorkSafeBC has slapped Lakeland Mills with a $97,500 administrative penalty and a $626,663 claims-cost levy.
“The dollar value of a penalty or claims cost levy does not and cannot reflect the loss of lives and the pain and suffering of workers and families,” said a statement on WorkSafeBC’s website.
Alan Little, 43, and Glen Roche, 46, died in the explosion caused by a wood dust concentration high enough to explode, a report issued by WorkSafeBC in May stated.
The agency added the company has the right to review and appeal the penalties.
Hampton Affiliates, owner of Babine Forest Products in Burns Lake, B.C., the sawmill that had a similar explosion a few months before Lakeland, was handed a $1 million ruling by WorkSafeBC.
Despite the significant costs orders, some argue the penalties are still too lenient.
“We haven't got to the bottom of this,” Shane Simpson, the New Democratic labour critic, said. “We haven't found closure for the families, and I'm afraid that's not going to happen until we have the kind of independent inquiry that has been called for across the board by most people other than the government.”
WorkSafeBC has ordered follow-up investigations at other sawmills and wood-processing operations, and has also ordered hazard alerts for gear reducers and wintertime conditions when there are increased risks.