PRINCE GEORGE – A coroner’s jury has made 33 recommendations aimed at preventing future tragedies like the explosion that rocked the Lakeland sawmill in Prince George in 2012, killing two workers.
After deliberating for approximately eight hours, the five-person jury ruled the deaths of Glenn Roche and Allan Little to be Accidental. A death classified as Accidental is one due to unintentional or unexpected injury.
The recommendations are directed to a wide variety of agencies including WorkSafeBC, the RCMP, the Steelworkers Union, the mill owners, and the ministries of Justice and of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Responsible for Labour.
Presiding Coroner Lisa Lapointe and the jury heard from 54 witnesses over the course of 21 days, beginning on March 2.
Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Responsible for Labour Shirley Bond released the following statement in response to the B.C. Coroners Service Lakeland inquest jury recommendations: “I again want to extend my condolences to those who were injured or lost loved ones in the Lakeland mill tragedy. They have shown grace and dignity throughout difficult times and during the inquest.
“I want to thank the jury for their dedication to the inquest process and for these recommendations. The inquest jury has issued 33 recommendations, with five addressed to my ministry and 16 to various other provincial government bodies.
“Government will now take the required time to review the recommendations and continue to pursue the steps necessary to ensure that workers are safe in British Columbia. We will do everything we can to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again.”
New Democrat labour spokesperson Shane Simpson commented, “The decision by the coroner’s jury into the catastrophe at Lakeland Mills in Prince George is a stirring indictment into the failure of WorkSafe BC and further evidence that a full, public and independent investigation is needed.
“The fire and explosion three years ago killed two workers and seriously injured 20 others. WorkSafe’s bungled investigation meant that no criminal charges were ever laid.
“No worker should ever go to work worrying if they will make it home safely. That’s the role of WorkSafe; their failure to properly investigate this tragedy shows they are unable to reassure any workers in this province.