The union representing workers killed in the Lakeland Mills blast says a WorkSafeBC memo shows the organization cared more about upsetting the industry than protecting workers.
The document written February 27, 2012, with the title: “Wood Dust in Wood Product Manufacturing Facilities – Potent Fire and Explosion Hazards”, points out the potential danger of flammable dust in the period between a deadly fire at a mill in Burns Lake and the Lakeland blast.
The memo also includes this quote:
“Industry sensitivity to the issue given the recent event and limited clarity around what constitutes an explosion could lead to push back if an enforcement strategy is pursued at this time.”
Brad West of the United Steelworkers says that’s troubling.
“They were more concerned about push back from CEO’s than they were about doing their jobs, and tragically 56 days after the Lakelands mill explodes and two more workers died.”
West says the memo highlights the need for a full public inquiry into the mill blasts.
The B.C. Government introduced legislation this week to implement the dozens of recommendations from a pair of coroner’s inquests into the mill explosions.
WorkSafeBC rejects says those allegations are off base.
Vice President of Prevention Services Al Johnson says the memo was written by the regional Prince George manager to local staff as an attempt to answer the barrage of questions they were getting in the chaotic days after the Babine Lake explosion.
“This by no means was a reflection of anything provincially. This was a local memo and a local response, immediately on the heels of what was happening at Babine.”
Johnson says everyone in the industry, both workers and management, were sensitive in the emotional days following the blast. But he says the information was still scarce, and Worksafe was in no position to create new industry wide policy.
“This is, really at that time, four weeks post babine explosion, we didn’t have all the anwsers. Once we had the answers, once we had a better insight into what was happening we certainly went full force with enforcement.”