BC Agency Recommends How to Prevent ComDust Explosions

By Rich Christianson | Posted: 02/09/2013 5:43PM

 

VANCOUVER, BC - The BC Safety Authority (BCSA) enumerated nine recommendations relative to its investigation of the Jan. 20, 2012 explosion and fire at Babine Forest Products sawmill near Burns Lake, BC.

Two workers were killed and 20 injured in the tragedy that destroyed the sawmill facility. Hampton Affiliates of Portland, OR, owner of the facility, plans to rebuild the mill.

First and foremost, the BCSA recommended that wood products operations hire "a professional that is qualified to identify combustible dust hazardous locations, and  in accordance with a recognized industry standard for combustible dust hazardous locations" to assess and identify hazardous locations.

The BCSA recommendations report also offers recommendations to the BC Office of the Fire Commissioner and Canadian Standards Association about what they might do to help prevent wood combustible dust explosions and accidents.

The BCSA said it is withholding its full independent investigation report "at this time to avoid compromising Crown Counsel’s review of a referral from WorkSafeBC."

“We have chosen this approach because it balances our respect for that process with our responsibility for promoting safety,” said Catherine Roome, BCSC president and CEO of BSCA, an independent, self‐funded organization mandated to oversee the safe installation and operation of technical systems and equipment..

Greg Paddon, BCSA director of technical programs,  said, “Our aim was to conduct a thorough investigation and learn all we could to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents. Now we can use that knowledge to initiate improvements toward the management of safety risks.”

The BC Safety Authority's combustible dust prevention recommendations, include:

To Owners and Operators of Wood Processing Facilities:

1. Document a facility assessment to identify hazardous locations that is completed by a professional that is qualified to identify combustible dust hazardous locations, and  in accordance with a recognized industry standard for combustible dust hazardous locations.

2. Where hazardous locations are identified and contain regulated equipment, document a plan to either  develop and implement auditable wood dust management practices for these locations that are accepted by a qualified person as an effective means to manage the combustion hazard, or configure the equipment for safe operation given the presence of the combustible dust hazard.

Safe  operating configurations include:
a) obtaining approval for operation in the hazardous location, or
b) permanent removal of the equipment from the hazardous location.

3.  Incorporate any identified hazardous locations and the chosen means to manage the combustion hazards into the facility’s Fire Safety Plan, or other suitable facility document(s).

To the BC Office of the Fire Commissioner:

4.  Publish a list of professional qualifications suitable for individuals who identify wood dust combustion and explosion hazardous locations in an industrial environment.

5. Identify suitable fire and explosion prevention guidance material to be used in BC for the identification and classification of hazardous locations due to combustible wood dusts.

6. Add details of a qualified person and accepted guidance material related to hazardous location  classification and management into the Fire Safety Plan requirements of the BC Fire Code.

To the Canadian Standards Association:

7. Specifically identify wood dust as a combustible dust belonging to group G dusts in section 18 of the Canadian Electrical Code, Part 1.

8. Improve coordination between section 18 of the Canadian Electrical Code and referenced fire and explosion prevention standards for hazardous location identification and classification.

9. Improve the natural gas and propane code requirements and accompanying guidance material relating to hazardous location identification and alignment with fire prevention.

The recommendations report may be accessed at: http://safetyauthority.ca/sites/default/files/babine-recommendations-report-final.pdf.

Accompanying video explains how combustible dust explosions and related fires occur.


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About the Author

Rich Christianson

Rich Christianson is Associate Publisher and Editor at Large of Woodworking Network. During his 25+ years covering the wood products industry, Rich has toured hundreds of manufacturing plants throughout North America, Europe and Asia. His reporting has covered everything from the state of the industry and impact of wood imports to technology and environmental issues. In his current capacity he is responsible for editing the daily Woodworking Network Update newsletter and coordinating events including the annual Cabinets & Closets Conference & Expo and Canada’s biennial Woodworking Machinery & Supply Expo. He can be contacted at rchristianson@woodworkingnetwork.com or follow him on Google+.

Read more of Rich Christianson's blogs.


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