The tragic 2004 death of a New Westminster sawmill worker is one of five cases B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair will be citing as he asks the provincial government to be tougher on negligent employers.
Sinclair is meeting with Minister of Justice and Attorney General Shirley Bond and Minister of Labour Margaret MacDiarmid this morning (Tuesday) in Vancouver and will also be holding a press conference afterwards with family members from the five cases.
The five cases Sinclair will be referring to are Lyle Hewer's death at a Weyerhaeuser mill in New Westminster in 2004; an Abbotsford farmworker killed in a 15-passenger van crash in 2007; a miner killed at the Craigmont mine in 2008; the rock scaler killed in Toba Inlet in 2009; and the Langley mushroom composting tragedy in 2008.
Hewer's death occurred in a workplace accident at Weyerhaeuser's now-closed New Westminster sawmill in Queensborough.
Hewer, 55, died on Nov. 17, 2004 while working at Weyerhaeuser's sawmill. Hewer was clearing the bottom of a large grinding machine called a hog. The hog converts wood waste to chips. The debris wedged above him came loose while he was working on it and smothered him.
The machine was known to be dangerous, but sawmill senior management resisted work orders from line managers to make it safer.
According to a WorkSafe B.C. report, mill managers determined that making the hog less dangerous, at a cost of $30,000, was too expensive.
After Hewer's death, changes were made at the sawmill, including removing the manager who asked Hewer to clean out the hog. The sawmill was subsequently sold to Western Forest Products, which has since shut it down.
In 2007, WorkSafe B.C. levied a fine of $297,000 against Weyerhaeuser Canada, citing the fact mill management ignored safety concerns and condoned a culture where "complacency in the face of danger became the norm."
While both WorkSafe B.C. and New Westminster Police Service investigators recommended to Crown counsel that there was enough evidence for charges to be laid, Crown twice declined to move forward with the case in criminal court.
In March 2010, the United Steelworkers made its case for a private prosecution of Weyerhaeuser, a rarely seen legal manoeuvre that was led by prominent lawyer and Queen's Council member Glen Orris.
In August 2011, Crown prosecutors decided to stay charges in the private prosecution brought forward by the United Steelworkers against Weyerhaeuser., the third time the Crown has declined to move forward with the case.