A fire and explosion at a BC sawmill causing two fatalities and numerous serious injuries has resulted in WorkSafeBC (WSBC) issuing a substantial penalty and claims cost levy against Babine Forest Products Ltd.
Two years ago a large fireball burst through the roof of the northeast side of the sawmill. The explosion travelled east to west through the mill’s operating and basement levels and fire spread throughout the facility. In January of this year WSBC issued its Incident Investigation Report. The Report made a number of findings, including attributing the incident to ineffective wood dust control measures; an ineffective inspection and maintenance system; a dry indoor environment due to the cold weather and beetle-killed wood; and a waste conveyor configuration that increased the airborne wood dust. Based on these findings, WSBC recently imposed an Administrative Penalty and Claims Cost Levy on April 3, 2014.
Administrative Penalties, issued under Section 196 of the Workers Compensation Act, are imposed when WSBC finds an employer has failed to take sufficient precautions to prevent work related injuries or illnesses; the employer has not complied with the statute, regulations or an applicable order; or the workplace or working conditions are not safe. Basic Administrative Penalties are calculated based on the employer’s assessable payroll. Officers may exercise their discretion to vary the basic penalty by up to 30% (higher or lower) based on criteria including the nature of the violation, the nature of the hazard, the degree of actual risk, and the measures undertaken by the employer to comply, amongst others.
Claims Cost Levies are imposed under Section 73(1) of the Act. For this section to be engaged there must not only be a compensable injury, death or disablement from occupational disease, but the Board must additionally determine that the injury, death or disablement was due substantially to gross negligence of the employer; failure of the employer to adopt reasonable means to prevent injuries, deaths or occupational diseases; or failure to comply with an order or direction of the Board or with regulations under Part 3 (Occupational Health and Safety) of the Act. Claims Cost Levies are calculated on a case by case basis.
Together, the Administrative Penalty and Claims Cost Levy ordered against Babine Forest Products amounted to over one million dollars. On April 3rd, the company announced it planned to appeal the proposed sanctions.
Questions relating to the content in this article should be directed to Andrew Wood, Partner.