WorkSafeBC has completed its investigation into the incident at the Pinnacle Pellet plant in Burns Lake.
On Oct. 9, 2014, during maintenance shutdown at the wood pellet plant, three workers were standing at the opening of a burner door when an explosion occurred in the dryer system. The three workers were knocked backwards by the force of the explosion and suffered burn injuries.
WorkSafeBC has issued five orders to improve safety in the workplace, and Pinnacle Pellet was ordered to pay an administrative penalty of $55,989.25.
According to WorkSafeBC, there were grounds for imposing an administrative penalty because the employer “has failed to take sufficient precautions for the prevention of work related injuries or illnesses.”
According to the incident investigation report, the accumulation of flammable gases was the main cause of the explosion.
“An accumulation of flammable gases in a contained dryer system was exposed to high temperatures and oxygen, leading to an explosion,” says the report. “A fire or hot spot was present in the system, and with the burner door open, an in-rush of oxygen occurred, resulting in an explosion that injured three workers.”
The report also says one of the underlying factors of the explosion included not following procedures to permit adequate cooling time.
“Pinnacle’s written procedure for burner cleanout was not followed. The combustion air fan was turned off before the burner outlet cooled to 80 C. Also, the burner manufacturer’s instructions were not followed; the instructions require the combustion air fan to remain on for three hours before the burner door is opened,” says the report. “By not incorporating the manufacturer’s instructions, Pinnacle’s procedures were not adequate to safely cool the dryer system. These two failures resulted in cleanup work being started in the combustion chamber while high temperatures were still present.”
According to the report, another underlying factor was not having an operator in the control room.
“The production superintendent told the day shift operator to assist with the cleanup, and the control room was left unattended,” says the report. “High temperatures developed within the system, and the day shift operator was not in a position to monitor or control them.”
In addition, the report points out that there was a “lack of effective coordination.”
“Lack of coordination between the production superintendent, the lead hand, and the welder were factors in this incident as well as the failure to effectively coordinate the control room operator’s duties,” says the report.
Leroy Reitsma, President and Chief Operating Officer of Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc., said the Burns Lake plan has made great strides in the past year in advancing a culture of “owning safety.”
“All of our employees, contractors and management are proud of the work that has been done, and continues to be done, to create and continuously improve the safety of our work environment,” said Reitsma. “The 2014 event brought to light a previously unknown risk associated with the use of rotary dryers that we have used as a catalyst to create positive change across our organization.”
“While we are respectful of WorkSafeBC’s decision, we are proud of the progress we have made on safety and are appreciative of the efforts that all employees and contractors have made to achieve better results,” added Reitsma.
The five orders issued by WorkSafeBC include that:
– The employer must ensure that each tool, machine and piece of equipment in the workplace is capable of safely performing the functions for which it is used;
– Unless otherwise specified by the occupational health and safety regulation, the installation, inspection, testing, repair and maintenance of a tool, machine or piece of equipment must be carried out: (a) in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and any standard the tool, machine or piece of equipment is required to meet; or (b) as specified by a professional engineer;
– The occupational health and safety program must be designed to prevent injuries and occupational diseases, and without limiting the generality of the foregoing, the program must include appropriate written instructions, available for reference by all workers, to supplement this occupational health and safety regulation;
– The prime contractor of a multiple-employer workplace must ensure that the activities of employers, workers and other persons at the workplace relating to occupational health and safety are coordinated;
– An employer must provide to the employer’s workers the information, instruction, training and supervision necessary to ensure the health and safety of those workers in carrying out their work and to ensure the health and safety of other workers at the workplace.
For more details about the incident investigation report, the orders and penalty issued by WorkSafeBC, visit http://worksafebc.com/news_room/default.asp