Sawmill explosion fine appealed once again

Sawmill explosion fine appealed once again

Two were killed in Jan. 2012 tragedy

The majority owners of Babine Forest Products are trying once again to stay a fine of more than $1 million that was levied following the Jan. 20, 2012 explosion and fire which killed two workers and destroyed the facility.

Oregon-based Hampton Affiliates was first fined in 2014 by WorkSafeBC and has already been unsuccessful in having the fine stayed by having it reviewed internally by WorkSafeBC.

The latest review by WorkSafeBC was released last November, with Hampton officials saying they weren’t surprised their request to have it stayed was turned down as the fine originated with WorkSafeBC in the first place.

But now it’s moved its appeal to the provincial Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal which is independent of WorkSafeBC.

A company official last week said it had nothing new to add to a 2014 statement released when the fine was first levied.

In that statement, Hampton criticized the WorkSafeBC fine inasmuch as provincial Crown Counsel lawyers did not press charges against the company under the Workers Compensation Act as recommended by WorkSafeBC.

“The Crown Counsel determined that evidence of Babine’s due diligence in managing foreseeable risks was enough to counter the charges recommended by WorkSafe BC under the Workers Compensation Act,” the statement indicated.

“Crown Counsel also concluded that WorkSafe BC did not perform an appropriate investigation of the accident. Based on that independent ruling, no charges were pursued. For WorkSafe BC to now propose a significant administrative penalty seems disingenuous, especially in light of this record, and the fact that WorkSafe BC must weigh the same considerations of due diligence as the Crown,” the 2014 statement continued.

Killed in the explosion and resulting fire, touched off by accumulated sawdust, were Robert Luggi and Carl Charlie.

The mill was completely destroyed and the wreckage subsequently dismantled and taken away. It has since been rebuilt.

An inquest into the Babine explosion ruled that the deaths of Luggi and Charlie were accidental. As well, 41 recommendations were made to improve safety.

The 2014 fine was in two parts, an administrative penalty of $97,500 and a claims cost levy of $914,139.62 for a total dollar figure of $1,011,639.62, making it the largest ever issued by WorkSafeBC and the maximum amount allowed under WorkSafeBC rules at that time.

A group of workers and family members of victims involved in the 2012 mill explosions launched a class-action lawsuit against WorkSafeBC and the province in 2016.

Since the 2012 accident Hampton said it has installed “millions of dollars of specialized equipment at Decker Lake and the new Babine sawmill to make our operations cleaner and safer ……”

Three months after the Babine explosion and fire, a similiar tragedy occurred at Lakeland Mills in Prince George where two more workers were killed.

Lakeland was subsequently fined $750,000 and it also is appealing the fine to the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal.

Burns Lake Lakes District News