Liberal government neglect and lapses in enforcement led to worker deaths and failure to lay charges

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VANCOUVER – Liberal government neglect and systemic lapses in enforcement led to the deaths of four workers and the inability to lay charges in the aftermath, said New Democrat labour critic Harry Bains today.

“There is one message from the Dyble review, WSBC’s own reports, and the Macatee report released today: the two mill explosions that cost four workers their lives and injured 42 others were the result of decisions and inactions taken by the B.C. Liberals and WSBC over several years,” said Bains.

The report released Tuesday by Gordon Macatee recommends improvements to inspections and investigations. In both the Lakeland and Babine cases, Worksafe B.C. did not enforce existing rules requiring the employers to mitigate combustible dust. This failure of enforcement, followed by the agency directing inadequate investigations, resulted in no charges being laid.

The official Opposition labour critic also pointed out that the Macatee review is not complete.

“Key measures that would keep workers safe by holding employers accountable, including a dedicated crown prosecutor to deal with workplace fatality and serious injury cases, are missing from today’s report,” said Bains. “A culture of compliance requires strong sanctions coupled with strong enforcement. Today, the Liberals did not take the opportunity to announce that they will allocate resources towards a special prosecutor. This tells industry that criminal sanctions exist only on paper.”

Bains added that the government is still failing to provide the families and workers of Lakeland and Babine with the answers they deserve about the mill explosions in Prince George and Burns Lake. The families and local First Nations have called for an independent public inquiry into these workplace catastrophes, which the NDP official Opposition, United Steelworkers and First Nations Summit have supported.

“These families have forced this Liberal government take action on workplace safety. The government tried to close the book on these workplace catastrophes after John Dyble’s short internal review. It is only due to the efforts and resolve of these families, who along with other advocates have championed a worker’s right to safety, that the Macatee report exists.

“There remains no full disclosure of why their loved ones lost their lives and suffered debilitating injuries in these tragic explosions that were clearly preventable.”