By: Greg Amos, Editor
A day of mourning held last Saturday (April 28) for workers across B.C. was especially poignant in light of the recent explosion and fire at the Lakeland mill in Prince George.
A Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Day of Mourning flag flew at half mast outside of town hall in Tumbler Ridge, as a sawmill safety crackdown is underway across B.C. in the wake of the April 23 disaster and the January explosion at a Babine Forest Products mill in Burns Lake.
“Every worker has the right to go home in the same condition they showed up in that morning,” said United Steelworkers local 1-424 business agent Don Iwaskow, who marked the occasion as one of nearly 300 attendees at a ceremony in Burns Lake. (The United Steelworkers represent workers at Walter Energy’s Wolverine mine, and would represent workers at Teck’s proposed Quintette operation.)
“It was very quiet,” he said of the ceremony. “We had several speakers talk about safety and the direction they’d like to see WorkSafeBC take in the future.”
Northern Health’s most recent update on the victims of the Lakeland mill explosion was issued last Saturday (April 28). One person died at the scene, and 24 patients were treated at the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia in Prince George. Of those 24, two have since died, two were transferred to Vancouver General Hospital, and one was moved to Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital. Fifteen patients were treated and released, while four patients remain in the Prince George hospital.
The two workers killed are Glenn Francis Roche, 46, and Alan Little, 43.
On April 24, B.C. Labour Minister Margaret MacDiarmid announced all British Columbia sawmills will be inspected to make sure they are following all safety measures. While a WorkSafeBC investigation continues, extremely dry sawdust is though to be a factor contributing to the blast.
“There’s a common factor here and we’re all aware of it, and it’s sawdust,” she said. “We know that sawdust may be a factor. There are people who have worked in this industry for over 30 years and have never seen an accident of this type.”
Family members of patients that remain at UHNBC can contact 250-565-2339 for information.