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WorkSafe BC makes progress on mill safety recommendations

With an inquest into a fatal Prince George sawmill explosion approaching, WorkSafe BC has issued a progress report on plans to overhaul investigation methods and inspections.

WorkSafe says 23 of the 43 recommendations made by Special Advisor Gord Macatee have been implemented while 8 are on track for completion.

Some of the milestones since Macatee’s first report in December, 2014 include:

-Combustible Dust: Considerable progress has been made to ensure employers address dust mitigation and control in the wood products manufacturing industry

• Policies have been updated to provide clarity and consistency in relation to the mitigation and control of wood dust and inspection protocols
• A focused inspection initiative of sawmills and pellet mills ran from October 1, 2014 to January 31, 2015. Over the 17-week period of the initiative, results indicate that there has been a significant improvement in compliance and that the wood manufacturing industry continues to take positive steps towards managing combustible dust in the long term for all types of mills.
• Industry has expressed support for establishing a Health and Safety Association for the wood products manufacturing industry, which would provide continued focus on training and support the sharing of best practices

-Enhanced Training: Enhanced training of WorkSafeBC officers and managers has been completed in the areas of major case management, investigation techniques, penalty process management and collaboration skills

Provincial government legislation introduced February 11, 2015 paves the way for completion of the remaining 12 recommendations.

Macatee says he’s pleased with progress made by WorkSafe and the provincial government, adding that the changes will support improved health and safety in wood products manufacturing and across all workplaces. He was appointed after two separate sawmill blasts which killed four workers and injured 40 others in 2012.

Crown chose not to proceed with criminal charges in either case, citing issues with the way WorkSafe conducted it investigations.

The inquest into the Lakeland Mill explosion is scheduled to start in Prince George March 2nd.

A separate inquest will be held for the Babine Forest Products blast in Burns Lake July 13th.

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