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B.C. government fined $710K for unsafe wildfire mitigation work

WONOWON, B.C. — British Columbia’s government has been fined more than $700,000 after inspectors say they found unsafe wildfire mitigation practices at a site in the province’s northeast.

A summary posted online by WorkSafeBC says inspectors went to a site near Wonowon, B.C., where trees were being cut down to reduce wildfire fuel, finding evidence of unsafe cuts.

Inspectors say they also found that the provincial government as the employer did not verify faller certification and did not actively monitor work, as required by its safety program.

The $710,488 fine was imposed in October but WorkSafeBC says updates to its online penalty database were delayed for several months due to a staffing vacancy.

The Ministry of Forests says in a statement that the situation involved a subcontractor and it is “reviewing its safety and contracting processes and procedures” to make sure contactors meet certification requirements to do hazardous work.

The ministry says it plans to appeal the size of the fine it was given, arguing that it was not properly calculated.

“Our view is that the amount of penalty imposed is arbitrary and disproportionately high, as the penalty was calculated using the entire Government of B.C.’s payroll for what we believe should be a specific location infraction,” the statement says.

WorkSafeBC penalties are calculated based on the size of a company’s payroll, but can be increased in some situations including for high-risk violations.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 3, 2024

The Canadian Press

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