British Columbia recently introduced legislation to promote
workplace safety in sawmills. Bill 35 will require more
extensive involvement from members of the joint health and safety
committee during workplace accident investigations, and the
immediate reporting of fires or explosions that could cause serious
injury to a worker.
Bill 35 is the government's response to two tragic mill
accidents, the subsequent coroners' reports, as well as
specific proposals in the 2014 WorkSafeBC Review and Action Plan.
In 2012, two mill explosions, one in Prince George, and one in
Burns Lake, killed four men and injured dozens of other workers.
Following those accidents, a coroners' inquest was undertaken
which resulted in specific recommendations relating to workplace
safety and the standards required for building and refitting mills.
In addition, WorkSafeBC published its 2014 Review and Action
Plan that included recommendations to make sawmills a safer place
to work and to improve British Columbia's investigation and
The government accepted all of the recommendations made in the
WorkSafeBC Review and Action Plan Report. Bill 35 proposes
amendments to the Workers Compensation Act as part of the
broader undertaking to improve safety at sawmills.
The proposed legislative changes include the following:
Employers must immediately report to WorkSafeBC all fires or
explosions that have the potential to cause serious injury to a
There must be meaningful participation by workers and employer
representatives in employer accident investigations and mandates a
specific role for workplace health and safety committees to provide
advice to the employer on proposed equipment or machinery changes
that may affect worker health or safety.
Employer investigation reports must be provided to the
workplace health and safety committee or worker health and safety
representative, or be posted at the work site.
WorkSafeBC will be involved in proactively assisting workplace
health and safety committees in resolving disagreements regarding
health and safety matters.
Bill 35 also builds on legislative changes made under Bill 9
earlier this year, which increased WorkSafeBC's ability to
promote and enforce occupational health and safety regulations and
addresses administrative issues relating to WorkSafeBC's annual
report and service plan and to the WorkSafeBC Superannuation
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