Canadian Manufacturing

USW loses confidence in mill explosion inquest

The United Steelworkers says WorkSafeBC's probe was flawed and is calling for a public inquiry



BURNABY, B.C.—The United Steelworkers (USW) is withdrawing from the Coroner’s Inquest into the explosion at Lakeland Mills in Prince George, B.C.

USW District 3 Director Stephen Hunt says the union has lost confidence that the inquest will answer the many outstanding questions that remain.

On April 14, 2014, Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe released a statement promising that the inquest would provide the families of workers who died, as well as injured workers and the entire community, with a thorough review of the causes and contributing factors of the explosion, including: how and why the explosion happened; the roles and responsibilities of those involved in mill safety and their policies and practices; and what steps can and should be taken to prevent this type of event from happening again.

“Over the past week, the inquest has heard how WorkSafeBC’s failure to carry out its mandate to ensure the health and safety of workers resulted in a complete mishandling of sawmill safety both before and after the explosion. Despite this tragic failure to do its job, the agency is not being held accountable,” Hunt says.

As a result of relying upon WorkSafeBC’s flawed investigation, Hunt says the RCMP and B.C. Safety Authority investigations are also likely flawed.

“It is now clear that the inquest is not going to adequately answer any of the questions that demand to be answered. The withholding of crucial evidence from the employer would have made a difference as to how the USW conducted its case and we will not participate in an exercise that does such a disservice to the families who lost loved ones and to the larger community,” says Hunt.

The USW continues to join family members, First Nations and the larger community in calling for a public inquiry.

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