Workers at Lakeland Mill Complained of Pine Beetle Killed Wood Dust Before Explosion but Management and Union Did Nothing

Blasts linked to dry sawdust are nothing new in BC's forest industry, Worksafe BC issued an explosion warning to sawmills and wood product manufacturers on April 27, 2010. "A layer of dust as thin as a dime dispersed throughout a room can create an explosion hazard. If combustible dust collects in a building or structure or on machinery or equipment, it must be safely removed before accumulation of the dust could cause a fire or explosion.” read the WorkSafeBC warning. Despite that warning, however, WorkSafeBC has never specifically established what constitutes an unsafe level of combustible dust.

The difference between a 'warning' and a 'regulation' is huge in lawyer speak. Who is liable and what constitutes a crime both turn on these two little words as is clearly spelled out in Bill C-45. Bill C-45 is federal legislation that amended the Canadian Criminal Code and became law on March 31, 2004. The Bill established new legal duties for workplace health and safety, Basically, as long as an employer follows Worksafe BC's regulations they can't be sued or held criminally responsible for their actions [or in-actions] regarding workplace/worker safety.

Worksafe BC, being a government agency, can't be sued for liability or held criminally responsible either. It's a setup even the mafia would love. As one employee of the Lakeland Mill said after the explosion, "Who runs WCB? Who runs RCMP? Who runs BC safety authority? Who runs BC coroners service? Politicians. Who runs the politicians? Businessmen." His statement and that of many others can be found in the comments here. That's why the RCMP came out within 48 of the Lakeland blast saying there was no criminal intent.

There have been a series of meetings, both public and private, where employees of the Lakeland and Burns Lake mills have blasted BC government safety regulators, namely Worksafe BC and the WCB, along with the RCMP and the mills owners. Very little of this has made the mainstream media because they, the media could be sued for liable. But the employees of the mills know what's going on, the employees everywhere in the forest industry know what's going on, and it's capitalist greed. The owners of the mills will collect millions of dollars in insurance and won't be liable for the death or injury or loss of wages or loss to the local economy or anything else because the law and Worksafe BC protects them. Who protects the workers? Apparently not their unions.

Perhaps coincidentally in the last few weeks a number of reports concerning the projected shortage of timber in the northern BC region is being cited as the reason the Burns Lake mill may not be rebuilt and why there will be huge closures and job losses throughout the region. Perhaps not.