·  USW@Work, Spring 2022

Remembering the tragic loss of Steelworkers in B.C. sawmill explosions

A large fire and smoke light up a dark night in an industrial setting.Twenty years after the Westray mine explosion, two mills in British Columbia exploded, killing four Steelworkers and injuring dozens more.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the deadly explosions at the Babine Forest Products sawmill near Burns Lake, and at Lakeland Mills in Prince George. The two sawmill explosions were blamed on fine dust ignited by a spark. According to the investigation that followed, the wood dust buildup was a direct result of management ignoring workers’ concerns and a decline in the cleanliness of the mill. Both explosions had an eerie resemblance to the Westray mine explosion caused by coal dust buildup.

To this day, many people still ask how these tragedies happened and how they could have been prevented.

In 2019, the B.C. Ministry of Labour contracted Vancouver lawyer Lisa Helps to review the actions by WorkSafeBC and the provincial government concerning worker safety. Helps released her report later that year, making 11 recommendations
to strengthen worker safety, ensure a criminal lens is applied to workplace fatalities and put workers back at the centre of WorkSafeBC.

It’s been over two years since the Helps Report recommendations. Implementation by the B.C. government is overdue. It is time for WorkSafeBC to get on with the combustible dust regulation review.

The USW has renewed its call for the B.C. government to implement the Helps Report recommendations and create ongoing training for police officers and Crown counsel for workplace criminal investigations.

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Communications Director:
Shannon Devine
sdevine@usw.ca
416-544-5946 or
416-894-7118

Communications Department - Québec
Clairandrée Cauchy
ccauchy@metallos.ca
514-774-4001 

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United Steelworkers
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