BURNS LAKE, BC -- Wood dust concentrations considered more than double what is acceptable for workers' health were discovered at the Babine Forest Products sawmill two months before the Jan. 20 explosion and fire that killed two workers and seriously injured many others.
A WorkSafe BC inspector gathered samples of sawdust during during a visit to the mill on Nov. 22 and 23. A report documenting the high levels of dust was released by WorkSafe BC on Dec. 28, according to widespread reports. Dust levels were reportedly highest in the basement clean-up area, measured at 5.94 milligrams per cubic meter. Canada has establshed a wood dust exposure limit of 2.5 milligrams per cubic meter for an eight-hour period.
CTV News reported that while the main concern of the pine dust levels was the potential to cause respiratory harm to workers, it was noted that dust might have contributed to the accident. WorkSafe BC is continuing its investigation to determine if a possible gas explosion ignited dust present in the plant to trigger a bigger event.
Hugh Davies, a University of British Columbia professor who participated in a research program on sawmill safety 15 years ago, told CTV news that he doubted the reported dust levels were high enough to contribute to the mill's tragedy.
in the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is taking the necessary steps that could ultimately lead to the creation of a new combustible dust rule that would include wood.
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