Local sawmill flagged for safety breaches

WorkSafeBC has cited Meadow Creek Cedar for more than 30 safety violations on area logging roads and at its Lardeau Valley sawmill.

WorkSafeBC has cited Meadow Creek Cedar for more than 30 safety violations on area logging roads and at its Lardeau Valley sawmill.

Documents obtained by the Star show the company has complied with certain orders, but faces a fine for flaunting others.

Following complaints to Kaslo RCMP about unsafe practices, inspectors visited the mill in early December to follow up on previous inspections and “evaluate a number of non-compliance allegations brought against this employer.”

They found that although the mill was a “high-risk work site,” it had no qualified first aid attendant. An emergency vehicle fitted with lawn chairs was being used to take employees to work, and migrant workers from Mexico had not been given safety orientations.

“The number of non-compliance conditions and acts observed during this inspection would indicate that the employer has failed to ensure that regular inspections are made of all workplaces,” the report read.

The company was required to provide in writing the steps it would take to correct the infractions. WorkSafeBC regional prevention manager Shawn Mitton says this has since been done.

“The firm did submit a notice of compliance,” he says. “The officer has done some follow up. He’s working with the firm on some of the items, both in the short and long term.”

Compliance timelines are worked out based on risk to workers — high-risk activities are to be dealt with immediately, while matters relating to administration or training can be allowed more time to implement.

However, because the mill was previously cited for similar violations, it may be fined.

“[A] recommendation for an administrative penalty will be prepared and submitted to the prevention manager for approval,” the inspection report says. “A follow-up inspection will occur to authenticate appropriate compliance with the orders.”

Fines are determined by the size of the employer and seriousness of the violations, to a maximum of about $565,000.

During the inspection, the employer’s representative was told they had four hours to find a first-aid attendant or the operation would be shut down.

They were also told their emergency transportation vehicle was unacceptable, in that it lacked required equipment, had garbage on the floor, and “workers were using lawn chairs for seating during transportation.”

The company was ordered to clean and sanitize the vehicle, outfit it with proper equipment and seating, and stop using it for commuting purposes.

The inspection further noted the company “has not insured that workplace conditions hazardous to the health or safety of workers are remedied, or ensured that workers are aware of all safety hazards they are likely to be exposed to, and made aware of their rights.”

In particular, “The Mexican or migrant workers at this employer’s site had not been provided with a health and safety orientation and training specific to the young or new worker’s workplace.”

Mitton said his understanding is the foreign workers have since returned to Mexico.

Other infractions involved a loader repaired after an accident without consulting the manufacturer, a mobile crane that had not been regularly inspected, missing logbooks, and various equipment not properly guarded.

The company was also cited for not maintaining several logging roads and bridges, and failing to use a traffic control system, which resulted in a near miss.

Although Meadow Creek Cedar filed a compliance report stating it had dealt with some of these problems, follow-up inspections found that wasn’t the case.

“Unsafe or harmful conditions… have not been remedied without delay,” the report says. “The employer has had unsafe conditions brought to their attention regarding forest service roads and their resulting inspection of these non-compliance issues… have not been dealt with in an appropriate time frame.”

Mitton says that doesn’t necessarily mean the employer did nothing, but they didn’t achieve the level of compliance required.

Meadow Creek Cedar has complied with three other orders to WorkSafeBC’s satisfaction, dealing with the planer, hazardous areas, and personal locks.

Mitton says it’s not unusual following a thorough inspection of a plant for many problems to be flagged, “but when we have that many orders it does raise a concern for us, and we pay a lot of attention to those issues.”

In 2005, Tricon Construction of Vancouver bought all of Meadow Creek Cedar’s shares from a Japanese company. Tricon’s president, Dale Kooner, is also president of Can-Pacific Packers Inc. of Surrey.

Phone and email messages left for Kooner and local management at Meadow Creek Cedar were not returned.

The mill employs about 30 people.

Caption: Meadow Creek Cedar is facing a fine for workplace safety infractions.