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WorkSafeBC investigation into lumber yard deaths could take months

January 28, 2016

By: Newwest Record

It could be weeks, if not months, before investigators and the public know exactly what happened at a New Westminster lumber yard where two people were killed in a workplace incident.

Two men, reported be to in their 60s, were killed after being crushed by a load of lumber at the United Gateway Logistics Inc. yard, located at 201 Duncan St., but few other details are known.

“What we’re trying to find out is what happened, how it happened, why it happened so that such a thing can be prevented from happening again in the future,” WorkSafeBC spokesman Scott McCloy told the Record on Tuesday.

“This is obviously a deep concern to us and all workers in British Columbia. When two workers die this way, I think it’s pretty clear this is unacceptable and everybody would agree with that.”

A number of agencies are investigating the incident that took place Saturday afternoon, including WorkSafeBC, New Westminster Police and the B.C. Coroners Service.

McCloy noted the investigation could take weeks or months, depending on the complexity of what investigators find, adding the case has been made even more challenging since it was not witnessed by anyone.

The police department was notified of the incident just before 1 p.m. by a forklift driver at the site, while WorkSafeBC investigators took over the scene later that day.

Since then, the business has been sealed off as investigators carry out their work, and as of Tuesday, the scene remained behind tape.

McCloy said investigators are trying to work as quickly and as thoroughly as possible, but he couldn’t offer a time frame for when the business will reopen.

The identities of the two men have not been released, but the coroners’ service is expected to release more information later this week once family members are notified.

According to the company’s website, United Gateway Logistics describes itself as a “detailed oriented export lumber reload company offering container reload services with competitive rate.”

The president is listed as Howard Sun.

It is unclear how many employees work at the yard in Queensborough.

The company’s website also noted it has “well-trained forklift drivers, and well-experienced friendly staff to provide the best customer service in the business.”

But it also appears United Gateway Logistics had run afoul of work place safety regulations in 2015.

WorkSafeBC released a batch of the company’s inspection reports from last year.

An inspection report from March 2, 2015, pointed out on several occasions, including Nov. 6, 2014, and Jan. 9, 2015, forklift operators were observed driving loaded forklifts with the loads elevated. “This is an unsafe work practice that can, and has, resulted in forklift tip-overs causing severe injuries and death,” the report stated.

A few weeks later, a followup inspection indicated the company had complied and forklifts were being driven with the forks as low to the ground as possible.

Another visit by an inspector on July 22, yielded 10 orders from WorkSafeBC including an observation that the employer did not ensure safe movement of workers, other workers (truck drivers, inspectors), and other people, equipment, and materials at this worksite, which is in contravention of the occupational health and safety regulations.

McCloy said the agency isn’t at a point where it could consider what, if any, consequences the employer could face in the case.

“We want to find out and understand the full picture of what happened first,” he said. “We owe that to not only the families, but we owe it to the future of work in B.C. to understand this so workers can be safer in the future.”

B.C. Coroner Service’s Barb McLintock noted the technical side of the investigation will be handled by WorkSafeBC, but the coroners’ service can still make further recommendations if warranted.

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