B.C. government fined $710K for unsafe wildfire mitigation work, plans to appeal ruling by WorkSafeBC
Compliance & Enforcement british columbia wildfires WorkSafeBC
WorkSafeBC has fined the government of British Columbia more than $700,000 for unsafe wildfire mitigation work that was being done by a contractor in Wonowon.
In a penalty summary posted to its website, WorkSafeBC said it inspected the worksite — where tree falling and other wildfire fuel reduction activities were taking place — and “observed evidence of unsafe falling cuts, including stumps with insufficient holding wood.”
WorkSafeBC also determined that the employer did not verify faller certification and did not actively monitor work, as required by its falling safety program.
“As owner of a forestry operation, the employer failed to ensure all activities were both planned and conducted in a manner consistent with regulatory requirements and with safe work practices acceptable to WorkSafeBC,” it said.
The fine imposed was $710,488.79. It was assessed on Oct. 31, 2023, but was just made available due to a staffing vacancy, according to a statement it provided to the Canadian Press.
The Ministry of Forests told CP it was “disappointed” by the situation, and noted that it involved a subcontractor and not anyone affiliated with the BC Wildfire Service.
“Everyone should be able to perform their work safely. We are taking action, working with all contractors and subcontractors to ensure we meet the high standards we always strive to achieve,” the statement said.
It said it requires all contractors to be certified, including having their own safety program “to ensure safety certification standards are met along with WorkSafeBC regulations.”
The ministry said no one was hurt in the incident and it is “reviewing its safety and contracting processes and procedures” to make sure contactors meet certification requirements to do hazardous work.
The ministry said it plans to appeal the size of the fine it was given, arguing that it was not properly calculated.
“Our view is that the amount of penalty imposed is arbitrary and disproportionately high, as the penalty was calculated using the entire Government of B.C.’s payroll for what we believe should be a specific location infraction,” the statement said.
WorkSafeBC penalties are calculated based on the size of a company’s payroll, but can be increased in some situations including for high-risk violations.
with files from the Canadian Press