According to Steve Zika, Chief Executive Officer of Hampton Affiliates – company that owns Babine Forest Products, the sawmill has “complied with the vast majority” of the coroner’s inquest recommendations.
The inquest into the explosion that killed two workers at Babine Forest Products in 2012 concluded Aug. 31, 2015, with 41 recommendations to improve safety in the industry – 11 of which were directed to Babine Forest Products.
Although Zika did not want to make a public comment about each recommendation, the CEO discussed the progress made on each recommendation with all Babine employees earlier this month.
“As I committed publicly, I presented to the Babine crew each recommendation from the inquest and what our response has been or will be,” he said.
One of these responses was that the company has improved its employee relations and First Nations cultural awareness. Workers’ testimony during the inquest exposed concerns with “bullying, intimidation and discrimination,” which might have prevented workers from bringing forward safety concerns.
The jury recommended professional training for all employees in workplace harassment. In addition, the company was advised to consider an Aboriginal liaison coordinator or worker ombudsman to assist employees with workplace concerns.
Workers’ testimony also showed that, during the explosion, it was too dark outside of the mill, which caused disorientation and the inability to find a safe place in a reasonable amount of time. Therefore the jury advised the company to ensure all plants have proper outdoor lighting, a fire pumping system and a stand-alone first aid facility. All of these installations should be serviced by a fully functional automatic emergency power system.
The testimony also exposed major gaps in fire code knowledge and inspection requirements. The jury advised the company to ensure compliance with the national fire code, including that an annual fire inspection be completed by a qualified person having jurisdiction in the area. In addition, the company was advised to review its evacuation procedures annually with all workers and conduct fire drills periodically.
“Certainly the entire industry and government has learned a lot about combustible dust since the two accidents – at Babine Forest Products and Lakeland Mills in 2012 – and there is considerably more sharing of safety information than ever before,” said Zika.
“We are not perfect in everything we do, but safety is always our highest priority and we have a culture of ‘a better way every day’ so we will continue to improve,” he added.