RICHMOND, BC — WorkSafeBC officers have embarked on a new round of inspections at sawmills and other wood processors as part of the safety agency's ongoing, comprehensive combustible dust initiative.

WorkSafeBC Continues ComDust Crack Down at Wood PlantsThe ComDust inspections of approximately 150 British Columbia began Nov. 1 and are scheduled to wrap up at the end of January 2014. The 10 WorkSafeBC officers assigned to the project have been directed to focus their inspections on:

• Dust accumulation;

• Ventilation and dust collection systems;

• Review of mill programs for inspections and preventative maintenance of machinery and equipment with potential points of ignition; and

• Review of mandated written plans at each operating location for achieving effective and sustainable compliance going forward.

WorkSafeBC said its officers have conducted more than 1,100 inspections of sawmill and other wood processing operatiions since April 2012 as part of its combustible dust safety initiative. Sawmills and wood product manufacturers covered in the program are required to conduct combustible dust risk assessments and implement a combustible dust control program.

WorkSafeBC's ComDust initiative was launched shortly after the April 23, 2012 fatal fire and explosion at Lakeland Mills sawmill in Prince George, BC, that killed two workers and injured dozens more. Three months earlier, a fire and explosion at Babine Forest Products in Burns Lake, BC, also killed two workers and injured many more.

Both Lakeland Mills and Babine Forest Products are being rebuilt.

“Wood dust management needs to be an integral and ongoing part of every sawmill’s operations," said Al Johnson, vice president of prevention services for WorkSafeBC. (Listen to downloadable audio.) "Our Prevention officers will be paying particular attention to dust accumulation, preventative maintenance of equipment and dust extraction systems, and each operating location’s plan to achieve sustainable compliance with wood dust management into the future.”

Shirley Bond, minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training, added, “Every employer wants their employees to be safe, and I am confident sawmill and wood product processing operations in BC are working hard to be compliant with the requirements. Sawdust can accumulate quickly, so it’s essential for mills to have equipment in place such as dust extraction systems, as well as ongoing maintenance, to ensure their operations are always in compliance.”