In early 2012, two sawmill explosions in northern British
Columbia caused four deaths and dozens of injuries. The explosions,
as determined by WorkSafeBC, were caused by improper management of
wood dust in the mills and were preventable. In both cases,
however, the Crown declined to lay criminal charges against the
employers, citing problems with WorkSafeBC's investigation
WorkSafeBC conducted an internal review with appointed
administrator, Gordon Macatee, submitting a report (the "Macatee Report") that outlines 43
recommendations to strengthen WorkSafeBC's ability to protect
workers in British Columbia. On July 15, 2014, the government
accepted all 43 recommendations, and our
July 30, 2014 bulletin outlined some of the proposed
Twelve recommendations required legislative changes, which
resulted in Bill 9, the "Workers Compensation Amendment
Act". On May 14, 2015, Bill 9 received royal assent and
made the following immediate changes:
WorkSafeBC's "stop work
order", injunction, and administrative penalty powers were
Employer obligations to conduct
investigations following worker injuries, deaths, and near misses,
were broadened and a mandatory timeline was created.
A second tranche of changes was implemented on August 4, 2015
and will come into force September 15, 2015, including:
The introduction of "compliance
agreements" for low risk offenders; and
A reduction in time to apply for a
review of a WorkSafeBC decision from 90 days to 45 days.
Bill 9 also created an administrative "on the spot"
penalty of up to $1,000 for failure to comply with occupational
health and safety regulations, including failure to wear personal
protective equipment. That power came into force on August 4, 2015,
but is not expected to be implemented until 2016, following further
consultations with industry stakeholders.
The New Investigation Procedure
The changes to employer investigation obligations are likely to
affect a broad range of employers. Prior to Bill 9, employers were
required to conduct investigations following incidents resulting in
injury or death or near misses, but were not required to adhere to
any timeline. Bill 9 does not change the circumstances triggering
an investigation, but requires that a preliminary investigation be
conducted immediately, and that a preliminary report be produced
within 48 hours. British Columbia is now one of four jurisdictions
that prescribe a mandatory timeline for investigations (the others
are Ontario, Quebec, and the federal jurisdiction).
The preliminary report must be produced to WorkSafeBC upon
request. If the preliminary report identifies a corrective action
following from the incident, an interim Corrective Action Report
must be produced and implemented.
Following the completion of the preliminary investigation, the
employer must immediately undertake a full investigation. The
required contents of the full investigation report remains
unchanged. Employers must still determine the cause or causes, and
identify unsafe conditions, acts, or procedures that significantly
contributed to the incident. The full investigation report must be
submitted to WorkSafeBC within 30 days after the incident.
Once the full investigation report is completed, the employer
must carry out any further corrective actions identified in the
report, and subsequently produce a Corrective Action Report
summarizing those actions. The Corrective Action Report must be
distributed in the workplace.
According to the Macatee Report, the introduction of the
mandatory timelines will encourage employers to quickly identify
and adopt corrective actions to ensure that similar accidents are
prevented from happening again.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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