VANCOUVER, BC - WorkSafeBC issued a warning to wood processing plants to take extra precautions in the winter months to "control the risks" that can trigger a potential combustible dust explosion.
The provincial safety agency, which is continuing its investigation into a pair of deadly sawmill explosions that occured earlier ths year, said, "The risk of a dust explosion increases when low humidity levels, like those seen in winter months, make dust easy to disperse and ignite."
WorkSafeBC pointed to a report by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board that found that seven of eight fatal combustible dust explosions it investigated between 1995 and 2009 "occurred during cold winter months when these weather conditions were most prominent."
WorkSafetBC said changes that can commonly occur in wood processing facilities as the weather becomes colder, include:
* Control measures and clean up practices that rely on the use of water may not be suitable or effective;
* Openings such as bay doors and wall dampers may be closed up increasing the degree of enclosure and reducing natural ventilation or make up air;
* Ventilation may be reduced or shut down to conserve heat;
* Re-circulation of air from exhaust systems may also increase; and
* Portable heating units potentially introduce additional ignition sources into workspaces.
WorkSafeBC noted that the explosion at Babine Forest Products of Burns Lake, BC, happened in January and that the Lakeland Mills explosion in Prince George, BC, occurred in early spring. Each of the accidents killed two workers and injured dozens of others. Following the Lakeland Mills tragedy, WorkSafeBC began inspecting all British Columbia sawmills, a policy that was soon broadened to include more than 100 wood products plants.
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