On July 21, 2010, a group of recreational boaters spotted a fire in a wooded area near Golden, BC. Because there was a camp fire ban in effect at the time, the boaters reported the fire to the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (MFLNRO), who in turn dispatched personnel to investigate. When the government officials arrived at the Khaira campsite where the fire had been spotted, they were greeted by a crew of silviculture workers. Nearly all the workers were black males, and as new Canadians, spoke little or no English. One of the workers was visibly injured and bleeding from the head. All the workers expressed relief and gratitude to the officials for arriving at the camp, and some said that they “hadn’t eaten in two days.”
The Khaira situation, which is clearly intolerable on many levels, raises questions about the safety of workers in the silviculture industry in BC and leads one to ask the following question: How, despite all of the evidence that appears to have existed and been documented by the various regulatory bodies against Khaira leading up to the incident in Golden, could a workplace contracted by the MFLNRO deteriorate to the point where workers needed to be rescued?
Clearly the system had failed not only the Khaira workers but also all British Columbians who rely on government to maintain a certain level of safety in the workplace. When workers are required to engage in heavy manual labour, they need to live in safe conditions that ensure they have adequate rest and nutrition. Otherwise, they risk injury to themselves and to others.
This report focuses on five key areas that contributed to the system “failure” which led to the incident in Golden. It explains the shortcomings and provides recommendations on how to improve each of those components: Notification, Enforcement, Contract Qualification Process, Training and Proposal versus Tender Approach