The United Steel Workers have commenced a private prosecution against Weyerhaeuser, a leading forest products company, on charges of criminal negligence causing death by filing an Information in the Provincial Court of British Columbia. This is the first time a private prosecution has been commenced alleging criminal negligence by a corporation since amendments to the Criminal Code in 2004 to make it easier for the Crown to convict corporations of criminal negligence.
The Information filed by the United Steel Workers alleges that Weyerhaeuser was criminally negligent in the death of a sawmill worker who was smothered by wood debris in a hopper in 2004. It is alleged that the supervisor who assigned the task to the worker and Weyerhaeuser management knew that the task was unsafe. Following the accident, Weyerhaeuser was fined $297,000 by WorkSafe BC for violating British Columbia's Occupational Health and Safety Regulation, but no criminal charges were ever filed.
A private hearing will now be held to allow a Provincial Court Judge or Justice of the Peace to hear all of the evidence against Weyerhaeuser and to determine if a summons should be issued against Weyerhaeuser. We will continue to follow this matter as it proceeds through the courts.