Blog Post #1202 – Agency Overhauls Investigation Process

Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine

One of my favourite writers has been Jason Contant. He has written many articles that I have found very informative and he does not seem to back away from tough issues. Here is a report written for the July 2014 magazine dealing with concerns with WorkSafeBC.

Editorial by Jason Contant.

Several months after Crown prosecutors in British Columbia concluded that WorkSafeBC botched an investigation into the Babine Forest Products and fire two years ago in 2012, regulators says it will implement recommendations to strengthen various aspects of its operations.

The WorkSafeBC Review and Action Plan, released on July 15, 2014 by Shirley Bond, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills and Responsible for Labour, includes 43 recommendations to ensure that future investigations will be handled correctly. WorkSafeBC administrator Gordon Macatee prepared the hundred 92-page report, which also addresses the separation of enforcement versus regulation and the incorporation of best practices.

Among the recommendations are the following:

Develop a policy to guide referrals to the criminal justice branch for prosecution;

Implement the sustained compliance plan for sawmills;

Implement the new investigation model that preserves the ability to conduct both cause and prosecution investigation;

Consider developing a memorandum of understanding with the appropriate agencies to ensure that the regulator is notified whenever there is a fire in the workplace the province;

Develop a hierarchy of enforcement tools;

Routinely schedule some prevention officers to conduct inspections on weekends and evenings to create an ongoing and effective level of presence in the workplace; and

Add two new members to WorkSafeBC’s board of directors; one who has legal and/or regulatory experience and one who is an oh&s professional.

The action plan was released at the same time that the labour ministry provided the results of the fourth phase of WorkSafeBC’s Combustible Dust Initiative, which showed that 84% of provincial sawmills were in compliance – up from 58% in Phase 3.

A backgrounder from the labour ministry reports that inspections prioritize 61 sawmills that had received orders during Phase 3 inspections, and 82% of those locations were in compliance. Other wood manufacturers – such as press-board manufacturers, pellet mills and oriented-strand board manufacturers, which tend to be much smaller operations – at a much lower compliance rate of 40%.

“WorkSafeBC assured me that they did not wait for the action plan to start dealing with the low compliance rates at other wood-manufacturing operations,” Bond says. “They are working with mills and, as necessary, penalizing them to ensure compliance, and that follow-up inspections are already planned be made regularly.”

But Stephen Hunt, western Canada director of the United Steelworkers Union, says the action plan fails to restore confidence in the regulator’s ability to keep worker safe. He adds that the union is calling for a public inquiry into sawmill explosions in the province.

My opinion

Just goes to show that an agency such as WorkSafeBC can get it wrong sometimes. They are one of the best safety agencies in Canada. Mind you, we are all not perfect and it was great to see that there is oversight and changes will be made for the better.

Ensure your workplace is a safe place.

Remember – “In Canada, ALL Accidents are Preventable”

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal

CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.


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