RICHMOND, BC - Combustible dust from wood manufacturing plants faces more regulation as WorkSafeBC, a Canadian authority similar to OSHA, expands its dust controls to include wood and paper operations. The regulatory agency, WorkSafeBC, says it has expanded its crackdown on combustible dust beyond sawmills to include secondary wood operations and paper operations.
WorkSafeBC said it was entering into Phase II of its combustible dust strategy and expanding the scope beyond sawmills to include "similar wood processing operations where dust accumulation could be a safety hazard."
WorkSafeBC, an independent provincial government agency akin to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, initiated its combustible dust strategy one day after two workers were killed and two dozen others were injured in an April 23 explosion and fire at the Lakeland Mills sawmill in Prince George, BC. A similar explosion and fire that killed two workers and injured more than 20 others occurred Jan. 20 at Babine Forest Products sawmill in Burns Lake, BC.
WorkSafeBC is continuing to investigate the Lakeland Mills and Babine Forest Products tragedies. A major portion of logs milled at each sawmill were infested with the Mountain Pine Beetle.
The Phase II directive will include up to 280 British Columbia operations registered in the wood and paper subsectors. WorkSafeBC inspectors will focus on dust cleanup, ventilation and dust control issues between now and the end of the year. Phase I of WorkSafeBC's combustible dust strategy has involved inspections and issuance of housekeeping and monitoring requirements for approximately 170 sawmills.
At least 11 sawmills inspected by WorkSafeBC in early May had hazardous levels of wood dust, according to The Vancouver Sun.
“Wood processing and paper product operations have been selected because of their high risk of combustible dust explosion due to large amounts of dust produced or handled in these facilities,” said Betty Pirs, vice-president, Prevention Services for WorkSafeBC. “Like all WorkSafeBC inspections, orders will be issued to employers based on violations observed during the inspections.”
WorkSafeBC said it plans to complete the first round of Phase II inspections by late August. The safety agency will follow up with employers to ensure they are in compliance with the Workers Compensation Act and Occupational Health and Safety Regulation in regard to combustible dust and potential safety hazards. Phase two inspections will also include sawmill facilities inspected as part of Phase I, that are continuing to face challenges in maintaining compliance.
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