07/29/2014 07:33 EDT | Updated 09/28/2014 05:59 EDT

Lakeland Mills explosion: WorkSafeBC fines company $724k

WorkSafeBC has imposed fines totalling $724,163.28 on Lakeland Mills Ltd., owners of the Prince George sawmill that exploded in 2012 killing two workers and injuring many more.

In a news release Tuesday, WorkSafeBC said Lakeland Mills Ltd. was in violation of the Workers Compensation Act, as well as health and safety regulations.

Responding to the fines now imposed by WorkSafe BC, company president Greg Stewart said in a statement, "Lakeland Mills just received the inspection report and order this morning. It will take some time to review the information.

"Only then will we be in a position to respond to WorksafeBC’s allegations."

The explosion at the Lakeland Mills facility killed Alan Little, 43, and Glenn Roche, 46, and injured 24 people.

The fine was made up of an administrative penalty of $97,000, as well as a claims cost levy of $626,663.28. In the detailed report of how the fines were costed, WorkSafeBC noted the total claims cost that fell within the scope of the act was $5,221,136.48.

It stands as the second largest fine in WorkSafeBC's history, after the almost $1 million levied against Babine Forest Products over an explosion at their Burns Lake mill, which also killed two workers.

"The dollar value of a penalty or claims cost levy does not and cannot reflect the loss of lives and the pain and suffering of workers and families," the release states.

The fines follow the Criminal Justice Branch's decision in April this year to not lay criminal charges on the company because of what they deemed a flawed investigation by WorkSafeBC.

That decision — as well as that made over the explosion at Burns Lake — led to a review of WorkSafeBC's investigation practice that made 43 recommendations, all accepted by the B.C. government.

In a statement, B.C. Jobs Minister Shirley Bond said that the level of penalty, "sends a clear message that companies face consequences" for violations.  

"I want to say to families who have suffered the loss or injury of a loved one that we are truly sorry for the grief and pain they have endured," the statement says.

"They have demonstrated their strength during these unbelievably difficult and tragic circumstances."

Lakeland Mills Ltd. still has the option to appeal WorkSafeBC's decision.