According to a new report, a relatively new investigation model used by WorkSafeBC to look into workplace accidents that result in injured or dead workers will from here on be more likely to result in criminal charges against a company. The new system of investigation has been in place since September.
The report recommended an overhaul of inspection and investigation methods at WorkSafeBC, and was triggered by two explosions at British Columbia sawmills within a few months in 2012,Between them, the two explosions left four workers dead and 40 others injured. B.C.’s Justice Ministry blamed flawed WorkSafeBC investigation techniques in both cases for the decisions by the Criminal Justice Branch not to lay charges.
The report discussed the progress on the new investigation protocols so far, and the outlook was positive. They said, if a prosecution is needed, the agency now has the ability to make sure it’s successful.
The new investigative model allows investigators to conduct twin investigations, for both cause and prosecutions. This is done by bringing in a prosecution team early in the investigation, to make sure all evidence is protected and admissible to the courts. WorkSafeBC hopes to appoint a number of special constables to further assist with the investigation process.
The report cited several key areas where progress was noticeable since July, including the implementation of a sustained dust safety compliance plan and policies for the wood manufacturing sector, as well as the development of a health and safety association for that sector. They also noted the finalization of two Memoranda of Understanding between WorkSafeBC and police agencies to more greatly cooperate and share information at those times when they are conducting investigations at the same time on the same incident.
Between Oct. 6 and Nov. 25, two of the 118 mills monitored for dust were issued orders by WorkSafeBC to properly manage their combustible dust. One stop-work order was issued. The report cited that as “a dramatic improvement from where things stood six months ago.”