New Investigation Requirements, On-The-Spot Financial Penalties and Work-Stop Orders In Wake Of Babine and Lakeland Sawmill Disasters

Before the Babine and Lakeland sawmill disasters in 2012, employers were already under an obligation to investigate any workplace incident involving serious injury or death, major structural failure or collapse, major release of a hazardous substance, a blasting accident that caused personal injury, a dangerous incident involving explosive, a diving accident, any accident or other incident that resulted in injury to a worker requiring medical treatment, and any near misses.

Now, as a result of amendments to the Workers' Compensation Act (WCA), following Royal Assent to Bill C-9 on May 14, 2015, the manner in which employers carry out such investigations has been regulated as a mandatory two-phase process. Employers must now complete a preliminary investigation within the first 48 hours of the incident and a full investigation within 30 days.  In addition, on-the-spot financial penalties may be assessed against employers for certain violations of the WCA and the threshold and obligations regarding work-stop orders has been expanded.  A summary of the legislative changes pursuant to Bill C-9 can be found here.

On May 27, 2015, WorkSafeBC's Board of Directors approved interim policies to govern employers’ compliance with the new investigation requirements under the amended WCA.  Details regarding the policy requirements for the preliminary investigation can be found here, and for the full investigation here.  A summary of the changes under the WCA and the operation of the interim policies can be found here.

WorkSafeBC is also seeking stakeholder input regarding its discussion paper and proposed changes to work-stop orders under the WCA.  As stated in the discussion paper,

Changes to the [WCA], effective May 14, 2015, expand the criteria and lower the threshold for issuing stop work orders. The changes also allow WorkSafeBC to stop work or prevent working from starting at multiple locations for an employer ("stop operations") where similar unsafe conditions are likely to exist at the other locations.

Employers are encouraged to review the discussion paper and proposed changes and to weigh in with comments, here.

The British Columbia Employers' Advisers Office expects to have final policies regarding employers' investigation obligations in place by the end of December 2015. We will keep you posted on new developments.



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