No charges laid in mill fire

Massive changes are needed at WorkSafeBC to restore public confidence in the worker protection agency's investigations after two deadly sawmill blasts have failed to result in charges, says Labour Minister Shirley Bond.

British Columbia's Criminal Justice Branch announced Monday that no charges will be laid in connection with a fiery blast at the Lakeland Mill in Prince George, B.C., where two people were killed and 22 were hurt in April 2012.

The branch made a similar announcement in January, saying no charges would be laid after the explosion at the Babine Forest Products mill, despite the deaths of two workers injuries to 19 others in January 2012 -- partly because of a flawed WorkSafeBC inspection.

Bond said she met with the WorkSafeBC board on the weekend, and that members decided to appoint BC Ferries commissioner Gord Macatee as the WorkSafeBC administrator.

Bond gave Macatee until July 1 to produce a report that would ensure future WorkSafeBC investigations are handled correctly, that B.C.'s sawmills are safe workplaces and to develop a plan for implementing a world-class inspection and investigation regime.

"There can be no mistaking the need for reform in WorkSafeBC's investigations approach," Bond said in a letter sent to WorkSafeBC on Monday. "Together, we must address the pressing need to both restore the public's confidence in WorkSafe BC investigations, and to ensure we are never again faced with circumstances like those at Babine and Lakeland."

Bond also announced a coroner's inquest will be held into the April 2012 explosion and fire at the Lakeland Mills sawmill. She earlier announced a coroner's inquest into the Burns Lake explosion.

B.C.'s Criminal Justice Branch said Monday that based on available evidence there would be no substantial likelihood of conviction connected to the Lakeland Mills blast.

In February, WorkSafeBC recommended charges connected to regulatory offences against the company.

On Monday, Criminal Justice Branch officials met with the families of the dead and injured workers in Prince George to inform them of the decision before it was released publicly.

The April 23, 2012 explosion killed 43-year-old Alan Little and 46-year-old Glenn Roche.


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