Plight of Lakeland workers debated in legislature

Bruce Germyn didn't know his name would come up Wednesday afternoon in the provincial legislature, but he's glad it did.

The former edger operator and safety officer was one of 22 injured in the April 2012 Lakeland explosion that killed Glenn Roche and Alan Little.

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On his behalf, Opposition leader NDP John Horgan asked Premier Christy Clark to reassert a promise she made at Germyn's hospital bedside after the explosion.

"Christy Clark did come to me and assure me she was going to take care of me," Germyn said Thursday. "WorkSafe has failed not only me, numerous workers."

Germyn said he has been fighting with Worksafe for more than a year and knows of six other Lakeland workers who are also having trouble with their claims.

"It's really complicated," he said of his case, adding he couldn't speak to any specifics due to an ongoing legal dispute over his claims.

"Physically I'm not the man I was before," said Germyn, who suffered burns to his face, legs, arms and body. He wears dark glasses because of burns on his eye. Some of the injuries are psychological, he said, adding he gets help with the Brain Injured Group in Prince George when support isn't covered.

Jobs Minister Shirley Bond spoke to the issue during the afternoon question period and reiterated Thursday that neither she nor WorkSafeBC can discuss details of a person's case unless they give permission.

"That consent has not been received," Bond said in an emailed statement. "I can tell you there has been significant effort to support to families and individuals. That is right, deserved and appropriate."

Bond added dedicated case management teams were established to ensure a high level of support.

"We will continue to work aggressively to support those individuals who deserve and require attention," Bond said.

Horgan took issue with the fact that the premier didn't respond to his question, charging that Clark was present for the cameras in the days after the blast but has been silent since.

Horgan said he wasn't satisfied with Bond's response and disagreed that it was an issue that could only be tackled through WorkSafeBC.

"There's nothing preventing the premier from standing and saying that she stands behind those that were injured at the explosions," said Horgan.

Last week Horgan met with about a dozen workers who were affected by explosions at Lakeland and the Babine Forest Products mill in Burns Lake, promising to bring questions forward.

Horgan referenced workers being under surveillance and "harassed"; Germyn said he didn't know if he'd been followed.

Bond suggested during Wednesday's debate that the conversation was becoming partisan.

"To suggest that there has been harassment is an outrageous statement," she said. "We should be very clear, before any surveillance is initiated.... there is a very high test before WorkSafe even considers that."

Bond added work is already underway to address WorkSafeBC approaches to claims.

"We will continue to work to ensure that WorkSafe has a culture that changes the investigative process. We made that clear," she said. "We will continue to work aggressively to support those individuals who deserve and require attention."

Horgan said he intends to bring the issue up again and will be headed to Prince George in late November to check in again with workers.

"Those that were injured are still trying to get justice," he said. "We're going to stick with it as an opposition until the government recognizes that their higher responsibility is to citizens, not to a public entity like Worksafe."

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