Prince George, BC: With the introduction of Bill 35, government has taken decisive action to address the Lakeland and Babine coroner’s inquest recommendations that were directed to the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Responsible for Labour…
Shirley Bond, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Minister Responsible for Labour states, “Following the tragic mill explosions in Burns Lake and Prince George in 2012, the government has taken action to improve workplace safety in British Columbia so that workers come home to their families at the end of the day. I hope today’s proposed legislative changes signal how seriously we take the inquest jury recommendations, and represent a lasting legacy and some degree of closure for the families of the workers who lost their lives or were injured.”
Bill 35 demonstrates to the workers, their families and all British Columbians that the province is taking the necessary steps to make workplaces safer following the accidents that occurred in the Prince George and Burns Lake sawmills in 2012.
The changes introduced today will:
- Require employers to immediately report to WorkSafeBC all workplace fires or explosions that had the potential to cause serious injury to a worker;
- Require employer investigation reports be provided to the workplace health and safety committee or worker health and safety representative, or be posted at the worksite;
- Specify meaningful participation for worker and employer representatives in employer accident investigations;
- Specify a role for workplace health and safety committees to provide advice to the employer on significant proposed equipment and machinery changes that may affect worker health and safety; and
- Allow WorkSafeBC to pro-actively assist workplace health and safety committees in resolving disagreements over health and safety matters.
These Workers Compensation Act amendments are part of the ongoing, co-ordinated work government has undertaken to make workplaces safer. The province accepted all 43 of the recommendations made by Gord Macatee in the WorkSafeBC Review and Action Plan Report, to ensure a world-class inspection and investigations regime at WorkSafeBC. Those changes included WorkSafeBC:
- Implementing a new investigation model that preserves the ability to conduct both cause investigations and prosecution investigations;
- Implementing the sustained compliance plan for sawmills as outlined in the report; and
- Significantly shortening the timelines for issuing administrative penalties and to develop a hierarchy of enforcement tools.
Bill 35 also builds on the legislative changes made under Bill 9 earlier this year that strengthened WorkSafeBC’s ability to promote and enforce occupational health and safety compliance in B.C. workplaces.
The work to address the outstanding recommendations from the Inquest jury continues across government. In addition to acting on the coroner’s inquest jury recommendations, Bill 35 addresses administrative issues relating to WorkSafeBC’s annual report and service plan and to the WorkSafeBC Superannuation Plan.