RICHMOND, BC - Phase II of WorkSafeBC’s combustible dust strategy begins this week, and has been expanded to include similar wood processing operations where dust accumulation could be a safety hazard.

Until the end of the year, WorkSafeBC officers will be inspecting up to 280 B.C. employers registered in the wood and paper products subsectors. Inspections will focus on dust cleanup, ventilation, and dust control issues.

“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,” says Betty Pirs, Vice-President, Prevention Services. “Like all WorkSafeBC inspections, orders will be issued to employers based on violations observed during the inspections.”

WorkSafeBC aims to complete the first round of inspections by late August, and will be following 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.

More information on Phase II of WorkSafeBC’s Combustible Dust Strategy can be found on a recently released Information Bulletin for employers.

Background

Phase I of the combustible dust strategy was initiated in April 2012 after wood dust was suspected as a factor in the explosions at Babine Forest Products in Burns Lake and Lakeland Mills in Prince George. These two sawmills exploded within three months of each other, killing four workers and seriously injuring dozens more.

On April 26, 2012, WorkSafeBC issued a directive order to the province’s 173 sawmills to conduct a full hazard identification, risk assessment, and safety review, with particular focus on combustible dust; dust accumulation; and potential ignition sources.

Since the directive order was issued, WorkSafeBC has been following up with employers to ensure the ordered actions have been taken and that sawmills are in compliance with the Workers Compensation Act and Occupational Health and Safety Regulation with regard to combustible dust and potential safety hazards. The status of the inspections and compliance is posted on WorkSafeBC’s website.

About WorkSafeBC

WorkSafeBC is an independent provincial statutory agency governed by a board of directors that serves about 2.3 million workers and more than 210,000 employers. WorkSafeBC was born from the historic compromise between B.C.’s workers and employers in 1917, where workers gave up the right to sue their employers and fellow workers for injuries on the job in return for a no-fault insurance program fully paid for by employers. WorkSafeBC is committed to safe and healthy workplaces and to providing return-to-work rehabilitation and legislated compensation benefits.

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