Thursday, April 26, 2012

Worksafe BC, not net-zero land

In its mandate, Worksafe BC lists a cardinal purpose:
"To promote the prevention of workplace injury, illness, and disease."
Following the Burns Lake and Prince George sawmill explosions, both in 2012, it is certain that Worksafe failed in this purpose. As a result, four forest workers are dead while others suffer with painful injuries and countless families face financial hardship.

To people studying workplace risks, dust explosions are well known hazards that can occur where any powdered combustible material is present in an enclosed atmosphere. Usually, protective strategies are in place and risks tempered. For example, the last significant grain dust explosion on Vancouver's waterfront was 37 years ago.

Fine airborne dust was rarely, if ever, a concern throughout the history of British Columbia sawmilling. Green wood logs and hydraulic barkers produced low levels of potentially explosive very small particles. That changed when highly automated modern mills began processing old beetle-killed wood. Two catastrophic dust explosions in three months prove high risks.

It is early in the review process but blame can be reasonably assessed. Clearly, management of Babine Forest Products and Lakeland Mills deserve a share but I see the major failure resting with Worksafe BC, the public agency responsible for regulating workplace safety.

According to a Twitter post by Rod Mickleburgh of The Globe and Mail:
"WCB inspection report of Lakeland Mills found wood dust throughout the mill, this was two weeks after Burns Lake explosion."
Worksafe BC should have been aware of dust explosion danger and they were aware of dust accumulation in the Lakeland Mills. Despite that, no remediation was ordered. I predict though that none of the agency's very well paid senior officers will pay a price for the agency's failures. Life in net-zero land has been good for them recently and, based on typical accountability of provincial executives, nothing will change.

Let's have a look at the four senior executive who manage day to day affairs of Workplace BC and how the BC Liberal policy of net-zero has affected them:


2011 Remuneration report not published at time of writing.

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15 comments:

  1. Are the Chinese dealing with dust like this with the logs we give them?

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  2. Not just BC Worksafe but the BC Liberal government must both share the blame for what could have been avoided.

    The BC Liberal party made such a great fuss over reducing regulations - mainly to try and eliminate "government oversight" more than anything else.

    Well, now the "deregulation " has reared and bit them in the ass. Industry self regulation is not working and as a direct result, four people have been killed and numerous others severely wounded/injured. Why would industry spend money when the is no need too - that is until something like this happens, as it directly affects the "corporate profit and bottom line"

    What a track record for both the employers and the BC Liberal record.

    What does Phil Hochstein have to say about this tragedy - one that members of ICBA contributed greatly to?? No doubt Hochstein will be very quiet about this and try and not have to deal with workers rights !

    There will be more accidents happening in the future - all directly attributed to deregulation brought about by the BC Liberal government policies. Our forestry industry is in dire straights and there is no forest maintenance being done along with NO REPLANTING ! Management - the BC Liberal government doesn't even know the meaning of the word! We have a government that is nothing more than a bunch of amature crooks, thieves and despots being instructed by greedy corporations and there will be more serious accidents while this BC Liberal government continues on it's present course of action.

    Thank you

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    Replies
    1. The flammability of the dust is irrelevant. The WorksafeBC Act and Regulations also addresses Indoor Air Quality. If complaints were made, the owner had a Duty to investigate the hazards and remedy these respiratory hazards, without undue delay.

      Clearly, these complaints of indoor air quality were most likely made to WorksafeBC, and they did bot respond to accommodate the owner.

      The remedy for indoor air quality complaints associated with airborne dust, would be the installation of an engineered ventilation system, that would have also remedied the fire hazard, which killed several workers.

      This is why the Independent Statutory Authority will not investigate this issue. They are in effect judges in their own cause.

      Delete
  3. After decades working in construction, logging and reforestation, I've come to the conclusion that WorkSafe and the former WCB rather than being agencies to protect workers and promote worker safety are more like a scam to protect employers from liability. Even before the assault of the Neo-Cons on workers that ramped up with the inauguration of Ronnie Raygun (air controllers) and continued apace ever since, even the old WCB was more about protecting employers than the welfare of working folks, though it wasn't AS BAD as it has become after thirty years of attack on unions and working people epitomized by the Campbell Government and a-holes like Kerkoff and Hochstein.

    And now of course Lisa "Ms. Mussolini" Raitt (keeping the planes on time for spring break) is intent on removing what few right working folks have left, at least until the regime can be adjusted to allow temporary Chinese to come over and dig their own coal and extract their own tar goop at slave wages with no concern for safety, after all there's lots more Chinamen in reserve and no wives for them at home anyway.

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  4. Well there you go.....same issue as with health care administration....we are not getting value for OUR money. I challenge the government of BC to allow me (or any one of several bloggers and commenters I can think of) to take on the duties of any of those listed above for one pay period. No orientation required, just show up on the appointed day. A comparative job performance report would then be published. I will sacrifice and take half of the wages shown... as long as if I make a mistake I will not be held accountable. If I do not perform to expectation I will leave, of course the existing severance package would apply. Mistakes include lack of initiative, lack of education about inherently dangerous industries....and general dillydallying. Mistakes here involve lives.

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  5. I doubt the Chinese, are dealing with any sort of workplace hazards. Life for business is "a lot less complicated", in a non-regulatory environment. In a place where a communist government, needs all the money it can get, regulations simply get in the way and workers are expendable.

    In the ultimate irony, a communist regime requires capitalistic thinking, to bring its society into the 21st century.

    Working people in this country, have to take back their rights. The cost of living, has risen 600 to 800 percent since the 1970's, however most workers salaries, have not even begun to keep up. Non-union folks are worse off now, than ever before. Union workers, have to fight harder and longer,in order to try and stay ahead of the game.

    The "free enterprise coalition" in this province, is "hell bent" on destroying the union environment and reducing "all" workers, to a "serfdom" existance. This has been obvious, from the start. Reduced wages equate to more profits, in their pockets. Its not rocket science,folks.

    The pendulum, must now swing the other way. After 11 plus years of this type of thinking, it is clear that sociopathic thinking, seems to dominate this governments agenda, for the benefit of a specific group of people, only.

    The "free enterprisers" in this province have only confirmed, what most of us have long suspected, that "Greed is good" and we the business class are going to use, whatever means necessary to promote and push our agenda, on the workers, and less able in this province.

    Large organizations like Worksafe BC and the old WCB, are "tools" of government, that are used to "regulate" the amount of liability that employers face. In our "lawsuit based" society, this is an important consideration, for those who require "options", in the event of oversight or neglect, for whatever reason. At the least, there is something in place here to "oversee" the hazards. In China, I doubt one would find anything at all.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Some of the problems include;

    A belief that injuries, illness, and disease are acceptable in some industries.

    That workers have been instructed that union bad, no union good (not all workplaces need one, but as a safety professional I can tell you a lot of them do).

    The safety industry is rife with nepotism, safety associations should be audited for this and for results. They are mostly toadies for employers, resume fluffers, and safety gadflies & groupies (yes theres a "safety scene") They do a good talk but no walk about how much they care about the workers (no workers on their boards or union or worker advisors says it all folks).

    Attitudes need to change, I have heard a senior WSBC official say this about injured workers, they're all at home watching tv).

    Funny too how a no-fault system pays workers 75% of their wage only, and the averaging of income over previous years drives it down even further, no fault yeah okay...

    Frequently heard from WSBC and the employer's group, "theres a lot of fraud out there" other workers must make up the difference in reduced payouts (see above). Okay well prove it, don't hand us imagined guesses of the level of fraud. Quit calling it no fault, it isn't.

    Claims officers hell bent on reducing the length of claims to feather their own nests. Too much group think when it comes to rehabilitive treatment, individuals are just that and will react to illness, pain, and injury differently. It gets worse with some claims officers, but I'll leave it at that for now. Other than to say workers are not actively engaged or listened to regarding their treatment plans and can end up back on the job way too early.

    Doctor's frequently don't want to take on WSBC, because they know the WSBC doctor will likely over rule them and the amount of time required to deal with them takes away from practice...WSBC doctor's who do not actually see or meet the claimant, or even worse who are only given part of the claimant's file by the claims officer, and are unduly influenced by claims officers trained in claims not medicine...

    Also the use (of the non-diagnosis) of osteoporosis, yes it happens to us as we get older but not everyone,yet it is applied all the time to make claims go away.

    An appeal process that is very complicated and a complete minefield for workers. Sure there are worker advisors but they are stretched way too thin to mount thorough appeals every time, and most do not have law degrees, where the employer advisor appeal advocates are well armed with legal graduates, and are oh so cozy with the review panel and WCAT... and WSBC.
    Many review officers from the employer advisor ranks hardly any (maybe none?) from the workers advisors ranks...

    Safety committees and representatives need to be ensured in every workplace, and it must be ensured they are effective free from intimidation and discrimmination. Discrimmination complaints take a ridiculous amount of time to process and despite the requirement being otherwise, the onus is left on the worker to make it stick. Also the gaping hole in the resume of the person who did the right thing and lack of employment reference don't help to much.

    ReplyDelete
  7. cont'd

    Subsequently, many workers just continue on doing the unsafe thing and when they are injured take the blame and mis-managed claim that goes with it.

    Training what a nightmare, there are people out there "training" workers in 4 hours and less for things like fall protection, and it goes on and on PPE use, confined space, lockout,SOP use, fit testing. Just a complete lack of standards and duty to care, a cash grab. Come on OSO's grow some nuts and right orders that the training is not effective.

    Also curently the trainers list for approved WSBC courses is a country club affair for friends and relatives, also it is closed. Standards for some on the list of WSBC trainers are unknown other than them being on the list...

    Older board officers retiring, and there knowledge is not being passed on to the young spark plugs with paper and very little experience. also management hates the board officers and the board officers hate management maybe that needs some attention?

    Gotta month I can keep going...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good comment. It is a very difficult subject and the power imbalance in a workplace between supervisor and worker can result in death and injury. In the summer after Grade 12, I worked as Whistlepunk (signalman before routine use of walkie-talkies) at the north end of Powell Lake. The hooker (side boss) instructed me to take up a position in a high risk place. I refused and the guy had a tantrum, saying it would be my last day on the hill.

      On the next turn, the huge first-growth log being yarded flipped over, rolled out of the intended track and destroyed the very stump I would have stood upon had I followed direction. My death would have been certain. The hooker never said another word and I kept working.

      However, truth is that the only reason I refused to follow his direction is that my uncles owned the logging company and they had taught me something about safety in the woods. I knew I would not lose my job for being disobedient over safety issues. Someone else in similar circumstances would not have had that assurance.

      Delete
  8. Don't worry folks, a Liberal name change will put things back on track
    Premier ELECT Dummy said so.
    And if you require another expert opinion, so did Mr. Hochstein.

    Cheers,
    Gary L.

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  9. WorkSafe is a huge scam. No wonder they changed the name from WCB, they have no intention of compensating injured workers. Another crime against the people of BC.

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  10. Their actual mandate should read " For protection of employers against would be litigants in regard to negligence and providing decoration as needed in regard to safety"
    I had some dealing with WCB concerning safety tours in sawmills when I was considerably younger. As I recall one particular safety tour when a serious life threatening condition was pointed out the inspector refused to write out an order to effect a repair. The inspector did however change his mind when he was informed that he "would have be punched out" if he didn't effect an order to repair.

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  11. when the lieberals changed the wcb to worksafe b.c. it was clear the organization would be about making things easier for employers not workers.

    the lieberals just want to make sure their friends are kept safe & provided high paying jobs.

    sawmills are dangerous places to work. there isn't enough training or inspection by competent inspectors.

    We can only hope the injured workers will be dealt with fairly by "worksafe b.c.". Given their track record some of them will be lucky if they receive anything.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Good public interest service Norman - even the MSM are joining in; media reports eg VSun JFowlie Apr 27 indicate WorkSafeBC was identifying sawdust problems years ago - ironically Apr 27 2010 - but it appears little or nothing was done to mitigate the risk. The problem was identified but the followup enforcement was MIA and that is classic el Gordo crony-capitalism governance.

    It will be interesting to check out the insurance payouts; don't be surprised if owners have lost-income replaced but of course workers won't get their lives back or the injuries reversed.

    The only way the perps and look-aside negligents learn is if they are personally sued, which is one of the reasons why investigations tend to not find culpability evidence....

    JT

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You probably know that worker compensation programs were created years ago to protect employers from liability arising from worker illness and injuries. There was a reason why many industrial machines were described as "widow-makers."

      Today,some BC workers are effectively denied full protection of workers' compensation. This involves immigrant or migrant workers, usually managed by contractors paid by the companies who use their labour.

      Delete

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