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WorkSafeBC posts update on review and action plan

B.C. institutes changes to improve dust safety, wood manufacturing safety


(Canadian OH&S News) — Five months after the announcement of the WorkSafeBC Review and Action Plan report, the regulatory agency has posted its first update of its progress online. Key progress to date includes the development of a health and safety association in the wood manufacturing sector (possibly by mid-2015) and the implementation of a revised “major case management” protocol.

The WorkSafeBC Review and Action Plan report was released on July 15 by Shirley Bond, the B.C. Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills and Minister Responsible for Labour, and included 43 recommendations to help improve workplace health and safety in B.C. WorkSafeBC administrator Gordon Macatee prepared the 192-page report, which came two-and-a-half years after a fire and explosion destroyed the Babine Forest Products sawmill in Burns Lake in January 2012, killing two workers and injuring 20 others.

Other progress items since July include:

* Implementing a sustained dust safety compliance plan for sawmills and wood manufacturing employers and introducing new policies for sawmills and other wood processing manufacturers;

* Creating a gatekeeper position to ensure oversight of all appropriate legal information to relevant parties (this person has the authority to decide when an incident ceases to be a cause investigation and becomes a prosecution investigation); and

* Finalizing the signing of two memoranda of understanding, one between WorkSafeBC and police agencies to cooperate and share information when conducting concurrent, joint or sequential investigations into the same incident, and the other between WorkSafeBC and the Criminal Justice Branch.

Bob Matters, chair of the United Steelworkers’ Wood Council, said that although there is still much work to complete, he is happy with the progress so far, adding that the new policies on wood dust migration and control will help to ensure sawmills are safer.

Macatee also said that he was “very pleased” with the progress made on the action plan, noting that 13 items have been fully completed, 18 were in progress and on track for completion as scheduled and 12 required legislative changes.

“To date, 96 sawmills have chosen to conduct daily independent inspections with weekly reporting to WorkSafeBC and 22 have chosen to have WorkSafeBC continue to conduct focused inspection activities on their mills,” Macatee said in a statement. “I consider this to be strong evidence that the industry is serious about managing combustible dust and doing so in a way that can be sustained over the long term.”

Another issue that was addressed was the time it took — as much as a year — for WorkSafeBC to process a penalty. Employer and worker stakeholders were concerned that this length of time was too long to be an effective deterrent. “WorkSafeBC is in the process of piloting a streamlined penalty process in two officers to reduce the time it takes to issue a penalty to a target of 90 days,” Macatee reported.

To view the report, visit http://www.worksafebc.com/publications/reports/ActionPlan/default.asp. The report is expected to be updated monthly, until the rest of the recommendations have been fully addressed.