West Fraser fined for dust infraction

The explosions in Burns Lake and Prince George sawmills in 2012 prompted a series of follow up actions by industry and government.

The explosions in Burns Lake and Prince George sawmills in 2012 prompted a series of follow up actions by industry and government.

According to WorkSafeBC, one key step to prevent future incidents is to focus on industry practices for wood dust. In 2012, WorkSafeBC released a 395 page report solely focussed on safely dealing with workplace wood dust accumulation. The report zeros in on the best practices to deal with wood dust build up and details housekeeping standards, equipment to combat wood dust and includes examples of current industry practices from several sawmills.

In May, 2014, a WorkSafeBC officer observed a combustible dust violation during an inspection at West Fraser Mills Ltd., located in Quesnel, B.C. The violation related to Section 5.81 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation. According to the regulation, “If combustible dust collects in a building or structure or on machinery or equipment, it must be safely removed before accumulation of the dust could cause a fire or explosion.”

On Sept. 29, 2014, WorkSafeBC imposed a $75,000 penalty on the mill.

Tara Knight, Communications Officer for West Fraser Mills, said a notice of appeal has been filed with WorkSafeBC and the company is requesting a review of the related administrative penalty.

“In this case, we were very disappointed to receive orders that we do not believe accurately reflected the state of the mill’s operation,” said Knight in a statement.

“The employees at West Fraser are very dedicated and proud of their efforts to maintain a safe workplace at the mills,” said Knight. “Across our mills, we have invested more than $30 million dollars since 2012 to improve our mill’s dust equipment, cleanup protocols, employee training and internal inspection activities, in addition to implementing the voluntary Wood Dust Mitigation and Control Audit this year.”