Sawmills face soaring insurance rates after fatal blasts
Published Saturday, May 5, 2012 7:45PM PDT
B.C. sawmill operators are facing skyrocketing insurance rates after the industry was hit by two fatal explosions in the span of three months.
Flavelle Sawmill in Port Moody was forced to shut down last week after the company was told insurance premiums were jumping from $300,000 a year to $1.1 million.
"We have one thing after the other, we have markets collapsing, and now this," Flavelle's David Gray said.
"That order of magnitude, we're just not able to absorb it."
Flavelle has found another insurer, but the company is still paying substantially higher rates. Gray says he's worried that if premiums continue to climb, many sawmills will be forced to simply close.
A Vancouver-based insurance company told CTV News that sawmills across the country are facing rising premiums, but the crisis is biggest in B.C.
Rates have been climbing for years, but they spiked in January after two men were killed in an explosion at Babine Forest Products in Burns Lake. After a second fatal blast in Prince George two weeks ago, and no answers on the cause of either tragedy, undertakers aren't willing to take on more risks.
There's been intense speculation that heavy dust levels, possibly caused by processing of low quality wood killed by mountain pine beetles, was a factor in the two blasts, but Gray says that isn't a problem in his mill.
"This mill is not going to blow up. This is not a Prince George sawmill.... It's wet and it's wetter, and that's all there is to it. The wood that we cut comes out of the ocean; the sawdust is all soaking wet," he said.
WorkSafe BC is investigating the causes of the two explosions, but a spokesperson told CTV News it will be "many more months" before a report is issued.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Jina You