·  Media release

Steelworkers Call for Greater Health and Safety Protections, Enforcement

BURNABY, B.C. - The United Steelworkers (USW) is reiterating its support to workers and families still suffering from the 2012 Burns Lake sawmill explosion, adding a flawed investigation confirms the need for greater action to prevent another tragedy.

"In light of this week's troubling events, we are reaffirming the commitment we made two years ago to stand with the community, to work together to rebuild and to do everything we can to ensure such a disaster never happens again," said Stephen Hunt, the USW's Western Canada Director. 

"Revelations that investigative deficiencies have precluded any charges in the Burns Lake investigation are upsetting to everyone, and are particularly painful to the workers and families directly affected by this tragedy. They deserve better," Hunt said.

"We will continue to strongly advocate for better health and safety protections for workers, more rigorous investigations and greater enforcement of our laws and regulations," Hunt said.

Two workers were killed and 20 others were injured in the Jan. 20, 2012, explosion and at the Babine Forest Products sawmill in Burns Lake. Three months later, on April 23, 2012, an explosion at the Lakeland Mills sawmill in Prince George killed two workers and injured 22 others.

The USW represents the workers at both sawmills.

The B.C. government's criminal justice branch has confirmed it will not pursue criminal nor health and safety charges related to the Burns Lake tragedy, citing a flawed investigation by WorkSafeBC.

The criminal justice branch has not indicated when a decision will be made on the WorkSafeBC investigation into the Lakeland Mills explosion in Prince George.

"It is clear that the investigative deficiencies identified by the Crown must be addressed through a working protocol that ensures greater coordination among regulatory agencies, Crown counsel and the police," Hunt said.

"At the same time, WorkSafeBC must develop new regulations regarding dust mitigation and control in sawmills. And it must share all investigative findings with parties that represent British Columbia's sawmill workers," he said.

The USW has launched a national campaign, Stop The Killing, Enforce The Law, calling on provincial and territorial governments to train and direct Crown prosecutors, police and regulators to pursue greater enforcement of health and safety laws and regulations, including the Criminal Code. The campaign's website is http://www.StopTheKilling.ca.

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Steve Hunt, USW Western Canada Director, 604-816-2554
Brad West, USW Communications, 604-754-1174, bwest@usw.ca

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