Truong mushroom farm

Truong mushroom farm

WorkSafe BC blamed for Langley company shutdown

Owner claims investigation cost him

After Planit Industries and Research Ltd. of Langley was fined by WorkSafe B.C. for violating a stop work order last year, company owner Rolf Pfoertner closed the manufacturer of high-tech plastic products, laying off eight full- and part-time employees.

He told The Times he still works out of the company premises in the 19600 block of 56 Avenue, but he is by himself.

He is looking to licence his processes to other firms.

“I hold some patents,” Pfoertner explained.

His company was ordered to pay $10,000 by WorkSafe in February of 2010, according to a just-released summary of investigations published by the provincial workplace safety regulator.

A WorkSafe report said the company had violated a stop work order that was issued because Planit was allowing hazardous chemicals “to be handled and mixed as part of the manufacturing process.”

There were multiple safety violations listed, including an absence of written safe work procedures, a lack of adequate skin and hand protection, improper clean-up of chemical spills, a lack of required labels on containers of hazardous chemicals, improper containers of same and an ineffective air exhaust system that had been “partially dismantled.”

Pfoertner disputes the findings and complains he was “harassed” by WorkSafe when he disagreed with their assessment to the point where he could not stay in business.

He said he lost a potentially lucrative contract worth $350,000 when a Russian buyer backed away because of the safety dispute.

Planit was one of two companies cited by WorkSafe BC for safety regulations in 2010.

The other was Truong’s Enterprises Ltd. on 264 Street near Zero Avenue in Aldergrove, a mushroom grower. It was fined $18,641.22 in April after a worker suffered a skull fracture when he fell two metres from a mobile work platform.

The company was fined for failing to install proper guardrails.

The owner did not respond to a Times request for comment.

Truong’s Enterprises Ltd. is not connected to H.V. Truong Ltd. one of two companies facing charges in the 2008 death of three workers at another mushroom farm in Langley.

Last year, WorkSafe referred it’s 2008 investigation of the Langley fatalities to Crown prosecutors who laid criminal charges against two companies and four individuals.

In all, during 2010, WorkSafe imposed 256 penalties and levied $3,163,898 in penalties against 232 employers for violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation and the Workers Compensation Act. There were 12 incidents involving a fatality.

“WorkSafe penalizes employers who have not been motivated by other means to comply with their responsibility to ensure their workplaces are healthy and safe,” said Donna Wilson, vice president of the Industry Services & Sustainability Division of WorkSafe BC.

“A penalty is not imposed if an employer is found to have taken all reasonable steps to prevent circumstances that involve violations that can lead to serious injury or death.”

The highest penalty in 2010 was imposed against Penfolds Roofing in West Vancouver which was fined $145,046.98 for an incident in which two of its employees were working on a roof without using fall protection.

WorkSafe said this was a repeated violation of the fall protection requirements as well as the requirement to provide workers with the information, instruction, training, and supervision necessary to ensure their safety.

Two out of every three penalties were imposed on construction-related businesses. During 2010, WorkSafe issued 41,813 inspection reports, wrote 74,565 orders and conducted 143 investigations into fatal and serious injury cases.

The agency said it has increased the number of compliance and safety officers from 185 in 2004 to 247 in 2010.

WorkSafe is an independent provincial statutory agency governed that serves about 2.3 million workers and more than 200,000 employers.

It was the result of a historic compromise between B.C.’s workers and employers in 1917 where workers gave up the right to sue their employers and fellow workers for injuries on the job, and, in return, employers funded a no-fault insurance system.