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Workplace where lumber tragedy occurred had years of safety infractions

Two employees found dead, buried under lumber


(Canadian OH&S News) — Following the deaths of two workers at a lumber yard in New Westminster, British Columbia, WorkSafeBC has revealed that the employer in question had already logged more than two-and-a-half years of occupational health and safety violations prior to the accident.

Two employees of United Gateway Logistics Inc. (UGL), a company specializing in export container lumber reload services, were found under a pile of lumber that appeared to have fallen on top of them on Jan. 23, according to information from WorkSafeBC, the province’s oh&s authority. The New Westminster Police Department’s (NWPD) Major Crime Unit received a 9-1-1 call about the accident shortly before 1 p.m. that day (COHSN, Jan. 26).

“The police had control of the scene until shortly after 7 p.m., at which point they turned the scene over to WorkSafeBC’s Fatal and Serious Investigations staff,” said Scott Money, a media and government-relations officer with WorkSafeBC. “All we know so far is that there were no witnesses to this incident,” he added, confirming that a forklift driver with the company had made the 9-1-1 call.

Money noted that the NWPD was still investigating the incident, as was his own organization. “WorkSafeBC expects the investigation to take several months,” he said.

The B.C. Coroners Service is also conducting an investigation, according to a Jan. 23 news release from the NWPD. Although the identities of the victims have not been released publicly, media reports have stated their respective ages as 60 and 65 years old.

The inspection report that WorkSafeBC issued to UGL on the day of the accident was the 18th in a period of more than 32 months, according to documents that Money provided to COHSN.

A previous report from Dec. 21, 2015 noted outstanding orders regarding load-handling attachments installed on mobile equipment and a lack of “written procedures for providing first-aid services at the worksite.” The same report stated: “The employer has not maintained a record of worker injuries and exposures to contaminants covered by the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation that are reported or treated at this worksite.” UGL complied with other infractions noted in this report.

The earliest inspection report, dated April 30, 2013, dealt with outstanding orders regarding an unsafe loading dock, an under-qualified forklift operator and a lack of high-visibility clothing in hazardous areas. Subsequent reports cited a dearth of regular safety inspections, among other issues.

“In areas where forklifts are travelling with elevated load[s], pedestrian traffic must be separated and safe work procedures must be in place; otherwise, loads must be as low as possible,” an inspector wrote in a report dated last July 28. Another report stressed the dangers of driving a forklift with an elevated load, a practice that increases the vehicle’s instability and may cause it to tip over.

“WorkSafeBC has determined that there are grounds for imposing an administrative penalty, read the report from Dec. 21. “If WorkSafeBC decides to impose a penalty, or take other enforcement action, further information will be provided to you.”

To date, UGL has never been fined or charged for its safety infractions. The company did not respond to COHSN’s request for comment.