Monday, December 31, 2012

Flashover: the Power of Fire

Top 5 most watched NFPA videos of 2012 - #4 - National Fire Protection Association Blog

From the top 5 watched NFPA videos of 2012, this video shows the power of fire, how quickly it can spread, and that you need to get out of the area to prevent getting caught in a flashover:

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Normalization of Deviation

Safety Culture Implications of Normalization of Deviation, sometimes also called a "Normalcy Bias". 

The normalcy bias, or normality bias, refers to a mental state people enter when facing a possible problem or disaster. It causes people to underestimate both the possibility of a the problem or disaster occurring and its possible effects. This often results in situations where people fail to adequately prepare. The assumption that is made in the case of the normalcy bias is that since a fire or explosion, or disaster never has occurred then it never will occur. It also results in the inability of people to cope with a disaster once it occurs. People with a normalcy bias have difficulties reacting to something they have not experienced before. People also tend to interpret warnings in the most optimistic way possible, seizing on any ambiguities to infer a less serious situation.

As applied to the combustible dust processing industries, we have seen the implications in our business of helping manufacturers prevent fires and explosions.  Many times it is said to me that "we have never had an explosion", implying that they never will. Even though they may have all of the ingredients for the Fire Triangle or Explosion Pentagon, but may never have had all of the right ingredients together at the right time.  And even though these manufacturers utilize or create combustible dust as a byproduct of their process, and they may even have a history of fires, many times they do not connect the dots. It may help to understand that if you use or create combustible dust and have potential ignition sources, then you have the ingredients for a fire, and every fire is simply a failed explosion

Processes are not static, they change over time. Material mixes change or deviate, products or equipment are changed out with "like kind" and may not be cause for management of change. Machinery wears. People change. Housekeeping varies. Many times production personnel do not understand the implications of even small changes to the process or product, or even housekeeping. Maintenance personnel may not understand the implications of deviating from safety procedures, or exchanging or modifying parts and machinery, or safety equipment.  And this is where fires and explosions happen, and people get hurt.
-Jeff Nichols

From safetymattersblog: "Normalization of a Deviation"

"Normalization of a Deviation"

These are the words of John Carlin, Vice President at the Ginna Nuclear Plant, referring to a situation in the past where chronic water leakages from the reactor refueling pit were tolerated by the plant’s former owners. 

The quote is from a piece reported by Energy & Environment Publishing’s Peter Behr in its ClimateWire online publication titled, “Aging Reactors Put Nuclear Power Plant ‘Safety Culture’ in the Spotlight” and also published in The New York Times.  The focus is on a series of incidents with safety culture implications that have occurred at the Nine Mile Point and Ginna plants now owned and operated by Constellation Energy.

The recitation of events and the responses of managers and regulators are very familiar.  The drip, drip, drip is not the sound of water leaking but the uninspired give and take of the safety culture dialogue that occurs each time there is an incident or series of incidents that suggest safety culture is not working as it should.

Managers admit they need to adopt a questioning attitude and improve the rigor of decision making; ensure they have the right “mindset”; and corporate promises “a campaign to make sure its employees across the company buy into the need for an exacting attention to safety.”  Regulators remind the licensee, "The nuclear industry remains ... just one incident away from retrenchment..." but must be wondering why these events are occurring when NRC performance indicators for the plants and INPO rankings do not indicate problems.  Pledges to improve safety culture are put forth earnestly and (I believe) in good faith.

The drip, drip, drip of safety culture failures may not be cause for outright alarm or questioning of the fundamental safety of nuclear operations, but it does highlight what seems to be a condition of safety culture stasis - a standoff of sorts where significant progress has been made but problems continue to arise, and the same palliatives are applied.  Perhaps more significantly, where continued evolution of thinking regarding safety culture has plateaued.  Peaking too early is a problem in politics and sports, and so it appears in nuclear safety culture.

This is why the remark by John Carlin was so refreshing.  For those not familiar with the context of his words, “normalization of deviation” is a concept developed by Diane Vaughan in her exceptional study of the space shuttle Challenger accident.  Readers of this blog will recall that we are fans her book, The Challenger Launch Decision, where a mechanism she identifies as “normalization of deviance” is used to explain the gradual acceptance of performance results that are outside normal acceptance criteria.  Most scary, an organization's standards can decay and no one even notices.  How this occurs and what can be done about it are concepts that should be central to current considerations of safety culture. 

For further thoughts from our blog on this subject, refer to our posts dated October 6, 2009 and November 12, 2009.  In the latter, we discuss the nature of complacency and its insidious impact on the very process that is designed to avoid it in the first place.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, and Merry Christmas to All!

Thanks, everyone, for making the world a little safer every day.


I could have saved a life that day,
But I chose to look the other way.
It wasn’t that I didn’t care;
I had the time, and I was there.

But I didn’t want to seem a fool,
Or argue over a safety rule.
I knew he’d done the job before;
If I spoke up he might get sore.

The chances didn’t seem that bad;
I’d done the same, he knew I had.
So I shook my head and walked by;
He knew the risks as well as I.

He took the chance, I closed an eye;
And with that act, I let him die.
I could have saved a life that day,
But I chose to look the other way.

Now every time I see his wife,
I know I should have saved his life.
That guilt is something I must bear;
But isn’t’ something you need to share.

If you see a risk that others take
That puts their health or life at stake,
The question asked or thing you say;
Could help them live another day.

If you see a risk and walk away,
Then hope you never have to say,
“I could have saved a life that day,
But I chose to look the other way.”

Monday, December 10, 2012

Combustible Dust: What Woodworkers Need to Know

From Woodworking network, an excellent article by Jamison Scott with Air Handling Systems on the health and safety issues associated with combustible wood dust.

ComDust: What Woodworkers Need to Know

By Jamison Scott | 11/28/2012 1:22:00 PM

Editor's note: An edited version of this article is in the print and digital editions of December Wood & Wood Products. Below is the article in its entirety.
Combustible DustThe occurrences and severity of combustible wood dust related fires have been increasing, resulting in an increase in OSHA inspections.  Combustible dust is a serious issue. It has become a top health and safety issue in the woodworking industry. While the first reported combustible dust fire occurred in a 1785 at a flour mill in Italy and over two hundred years later in 2008 a major sugar refinery in the state of Georgia exploded due to combustible dust, in 2012, the woodworking industry saw a major sawmill in British Columbia, Canada, launch a fire ball reportedly 60 meters high due to a suspected combustible dust explosion. Additionally a wood pellet manufacturer in New Hampshire suffer a third combustible dust related incident.

While the occurrences of combustible wood dust related fires have been increasing and at times catastrophic, the incidence of OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) inspections related to combustible dust in woodworking facilities has also increased dramatically.

What Are Combustible Wood Dust Particles?

Combustible dust, as defined by the National Fire Protection Assn. (NFPA), is “a finely divided combustible particulate solid that presents a flash hazard or explosion hazard when suspended in air or the process-specific oxidizing medium over a range of concentrations.” Another definition, by OSHA, describes combustible dust as fine particles that present an explosion hazard when suspended in air under certain conditions. Common to the woodworking industry is wood dust otherwise known as “wood flour” an agricultural product that is potentially combustible under certain conditions and presents an explosive dust hazard. Other dusts such as stone dusts and granite; an igneous rock or common table salt which is sodium chloride are not explosive dust hazards as they cannot combust. However, it is not simply defining a dust; it is determining the explosibility of the dust. Important factors include size, shape, moisture as well as environment. If there is any doubt of combustibility, the dust must be sent to a certified facility to be tested.

Additionally, Kst value can be used as a determining factor in the deflagration of your dust. The higher the Kst value the greater the explosion characteristic of the dust. For example, wood flour (wood dust) has a Kst Value of >200 and < 300 meaning it has a strong explosion characteristic. The Hazard Communication Guidance for Combustible Dusts also lists a dust explosion class rating system from St 0 – St 3. The dust explosion class of wood flour is St 2. NFPA defines the size of “Deflagrable Wood Dust” as 500 microns (0.5 mm, 0.0196 inch) or less and has a moisture content of less than 25 percent. Another way to measure is to see if the material will pass through U.S. No. 35 Standard Sieve according to NFPA 664 ( which is approximately the “size of fairly coarse sand.”

What exactly is “wood” the source of wood flour or wood dust? NFPA details wood as “cellulosic material derived from trees, and other cellulosic materials including, but not limited to, wheat straw, flax, bagasse, coconut shells, corn stalks, hemp, rice hulls, and paper or other cellulosic fiber used as a substitute or additive to wood. Additionally, ‘Wood-Derived Materials” are defined by NFPA as “sawdust, sander dust, planer shavings, hoggings, wood flour, and moulder waste.”

What Is a Combustible Wood Dust Explosion?

For any fire to occur, there must be fuel, ignition and oxygen (Classic Fire Triangle). However, for a combustible dust explosion, you must also add dispersion and confinement -- the "Dust Explosion Pentagon." Removal of any one element prevents an explosion, though not necessarily a fire.  In order to have a fire you must have “Fuel,” “Ignition” and “Oxygen,” the three main elements of the “Classic Fire Triangle.” However, for a combustible dust explosion you must add “Dispersion” and “Confinement” which together creates the “Dust Explosion Pentagon.” Without these five elements an explosion is impossible but not a fire.

With many larger combustible dust explosions there are two issues, first the primary issue which is the initial combustible dust explosion. Additionally, the second issue is the secondary explosion which typically comes from stagnant undisturbed fugitive dust that has settled in hidden places which becomes dispersed and suspended due to the disturbance caused by the initial explosion. This is what happened at the Imperial Sugar explosion in Port Wentworth, GA, in 2008. The initial explosion occurred at one location within the facility and the explosion was so forceful that it literally shook other sections of the building releasing and suspending the previously settled fugitive dust, thus creating dust clouds in enclosed rooms that exploded as fire spread throughout the building. There is suspicion this is also what happened at the sawmill explosion in British Columbia, Canada, earlier in 2012.

Explosion and/or Inspection?

Under the right conditions a combustible dust explosion can occur. Under just about any condition OSHA can inspect a facility.
Combustible dust is on OSHA’s radar screen, and inspections have increased substantially as have the actual penalties. OSHA is taking this matter seriously using the general duty clause in classifying combustible dust violations. One combustible dust violation alone had a $5,000 penalty, according to OSHA “The employer did not furnish employment and a place of employment which were free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees in that employees were exposed to fire and explosion hazards caused by the presence of combustible dust.”

Another OSHA Citation for a woodworking facility stated “layers of combustible wood dust were allowed to accumulate to depths over surface areas in quantities that exposed workers to fire and or explosion hazards.” This citation references 29 CFR 1910.22(a)(1). CFR is the United States “Code of Federal Regulations.” Title 29 is regulations related to “Labor”. Part 1910 is the “Occupational Safety and Health Standards.” Section 22 is “General Requirements” (a) “Housekeeping” (1) “All places of employment, passageways, storerooms, and service room shall be kept clean and orderly and in a sanitary condition.” So the layers of wood dust in this citation are in direct violation of the current “housekeeping” regulation whereas combustible wood dust accumulated on I-beams, inside the trough of ceiling joists as well as on the floor.

The citation continues to state “when combustible wood dust was cleared from surfaces, the employer used cleaning methods that increased the potential for a combustible dust deflagration and or explosion” because “the employer use 30 psi compressed air to blow down and clear combustible wood dust.” The current NFPA Standard as referenced in this citation states 15 psi as being the proper low pressure. This citation specifically refers to the NFPA 664 (2012) which states “surfaces shall be cleaned in a manner that minimizes the generation of dust clouds…only a low gauge pressure 15 psi…shall be used.”

Steps Toward Prevention

Studying past combustible dust explosions, OSHA citations, as well as NFPA standards provide guidelines for prevention. A few areas that should be highlighted include: Hazard Recognition/Assessment; Building Design & Engineering Controls; Administrative Controls; Housekeeping; and Worker Training.

● Hazard Recognition/Assessment includes area such as determining if dust is combustible via Dust Explosion Testing which may include Particle Size and Moisture Analysis, Explosion Severity Test which will tests the Kst value and Minimum Explosible Concentration (MEC) all as mentioned earlier. Hazard Recognition/Assessment also covers issues related to NFPA as well as potential application of State and Local codes including the role of the AHJ, also as mentioned earlier.

● Building Design & Engineering Controls should cover “fixed structures that are built into a facility or processing equipment designed to remove or minimize a hazard.” Building Design includes the building or facility which focuses on prevention of fugitive dust accumulation on surfaces, beams, etc. Flat surfaces are not good, surfaces including rectangular shaped ductwork, overhead beams, flat surfaced lighting fixtures, and all invisible areas such hung or suspended ceilings. This is where good housekeeping is imperative. Engineering controls focus on the equipment such as dust collection systems or prevention devises such are spark detection in dust collectors and ductwork and explosion venting and suppression.

● OSHA requires a great detail on documentation which is one of the most important roles in Administrative Controls. Just like with any other safety and health regulation, OSHA requires written rules and procedures and wants to and ensure policies are fully understood and practiced by employees. For example, is there a method to prevent escape of fugitive dust? If there is escape of dust is there a policy to remove fugitive dust from surfaces? In addition to documentation various NFPA Standards have detailed proper methods of operating procedures, inspections, testing and maintenance procedures as well as training and states “safe work habits are developed and do not occur naturally” enforcing the importance of a detailed training program.

● One of the most important things any facility can do is fully engage in housekeeping and fugitive dust control. If underlying surface colors are not readily discernible there could be a dust deflagration hazard as mentioned in another NFPA document.

If you can see the dust, do not ignore it. Clean it up, but do not blow off with an air gun as that simply releases and stratifies the dust — use a vacuum to collect dust. Then investigate to determine the source of the dust. For example, if the ductwork is not airtight, seal joints to prevent the release of dust. When inspecting the workplace for dust accumulations again consider all flat surfaces including rectangular shaped ductwork, overhead beams, flat surfaced lighting fixtures, and all invisible areas such hung or suspended ceilings.

So while a combustible dust explosion might occur, the likelihood of an OSHA inspection is much greater. OSHA’s role is to protect the worker. And with the increase of combustible dust incidents OSHA is visiting woodworking facilities with greater frequency. Proper understanding of the enormous destruction of a combustible dust fire with the knowledge that an explosion can be mitigated by ensuring the proper steps are implemented will protect the workforce, facility as well as the industry.

The NFPA Standards

NFPA is the National Fire Protection Assn., an International Codes and Standards Organization that creates voluntary consensus standards used by various organizations including AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction), which can be anyone from a Building Inspector to a Fire Marshall. There are several useful standards covering combustible dust published by NPFA. Some of the most relevant are:

● NFPA 61: Standard for the Prevention of Fires and Dust Explosions in Agricultural and Food Processing Facilities. Current Edition: 2013

● NFPA 484: Standard for Combustible Metals, Current Edition: 2012

● NFPA 654 Standard for the Prevention of Fire and Dust Explosions from the Manufacturing, Processing, and Handling of Combustible Particulate Solids, Current Edition: 2013

● NFPA 655: Standard for Prevention of Sulfur Fires and Explosions, Current Edition: 2012

● NFPA 664: Standard for the Prevention of Fires and Explosions in Wood Processing and Woodworking Facilities, Current Edition: 2012

●And the newly proposed - NFPA 652: Standard on Combustible Dusts. Released this Fall is the first draft of the proposed NFPA 652 Standard on Combustible Dusts. This new standard will be a companion to the other combustible dust related standards. The goal of the new standard as proposed in the preliminary draft “is to provide safety measures to prevent and mitigate fires and dust explosions in facilities that handle combustible particulate solids.” The development of this standard will take approximately three years with a proposed release date of Fall 2015.

About the Author:

Jamison Scott is executive vice president and a third generation member of family owned industrial ventilation manufacturing firm Air Handling Systems located in Woodbridge, CT. With over 20 years of experience, he serves on the Technical Advisory Board for Air Pollution Control and Chairs the Industrial Dust Task Force for the WMMA (Wood Machinery Manufacturers of America). He holds an MBA and is a licensed sheet metal contractor in the state of Connecticut. For information contact: 203-389-9595;;

To keep current on combustible dust related issues visit:

What are the fundamentals of combustible dusts?

From the NFPA Today Blog.  There will soon be a new NFPA Standard on Combustible Dust, NFPA 652.  This article is an excellent primer on combustible dust, and describes the Fundamentals of Combustible Dust, based on four basic concepts in each of the other NFPA combustible dust standards: hazard identification, hazard assessment, hazard management, and management systems.

Basically, you have to first know whether your dust is combustible, and many if not most dusts or "fines" created in manufacturing are potentially combustible, and you have to manage the risks, namely fugitive dust and ignition sources.

What are the fundamentals of combustible dusts? - National Fire Protection Association Blog

What are the fundamentals of combustible dusts?

With the request to enter into a revision cycle approved by the Standards Council, the Preliminary Daft of NFPA 652, Standard on Combustible Dust, is now accepting public input until January 4, 2013.

The big question circling this document, what are the fundamentals of combustible dusts?

If you were to go through the different NFPA dust standards, you will notice similar requirements.  The requirements may not be exactly the same throughout the standards, but the general underlying ideas are there.

The Technical Committee (TC) started the draft out with four main chapters that circle around four basic concepts in each of the dust standards: hazard identification, hazard assessment, hazard management, and management systems.

 Hazard Identification
The very first thing you are going to do is to Identify whether a hazard exists in your facility. Before getting overwhelmed by the combustible dusts standards, you need to determine if the dust in your facility is a combustible dust and if it presents a flash-fire or explosion hazard.  Can the dust burn? Yes, then you will need to determine if it can cause a flash-fire and/or explosion.  To determine if the the dust can present an explosion hazard, the simplest test that can be performed is known as the “go/no-go” test or ASTM E 1226 Standard Test Method for Explosibility of Dust Clouds.  Further tests may be required based on the hazard management methods you wish to use in your facility.  Knowing whether the dust in your facility has a potential for a flash-fire or explosion hazard is essential to determine where you need to go next within the standard and the other standards.  If you do not properly manage the hazards, you are increasing the chance (or risk) of an incident occurring in your facility.

 Hazard Assessment
After identifying whether the dust in your facility can present a fire, flash-fire, or explosion hazard, the next step to assess the type of hazard you have and where these hazards exist.  The method can be as simple as going through your facility and determine where these hazards exist and develop a means in which they can be managed (see hazard management).  Simply, this method of accessing your facility for hazards  is known as a process hazard analysis. A process hazard analysis (or PHA) is not intended to be complex analysis requiring a facility to hire consultants.  There are many ways to preform this analysis and the TC is developing some guidance to better help the user understand how to perform a PHA. However, if you do not know the hazards or process equipment well enough to make informed decisions, it wouldn’t hurt to have a 3rd party assist in the review.

 Hazard Management
These are going to be your tools on how to manage the different hazards in the facility: building construction, explosion protection, equipment construction, ignition source control, housekeeping, etc.  There are requirements that will apply to the facility itself and different pieces of equipment.  Some will not apply to your particular facility and other requirements will give you different options that you can apply.

Management Systems
The last major concept when dealing with combustible dusts is management systems.  Management systems cover operating procedures, inspection, testing and maintenance of equipment, training for employees and contractors, emergency planning, incident investigation, management of change, and document retention. Basically, make sure that you use and maintain your equipment properly, train your employees and anyone working in your facility, investigate fire and explosion incidents, keep constant documentation, and procedures for managing any changes in the process, equipment, material, facility, etc.

When taking a high-level view at the concepts in each of the dust standards, there are basic concepts that standout no matter what type of dust your facility has.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Wood Plant ComDust Investigations


"Combustible sawdust turned up in unacceptable levels in 48 of 83 wood and forest products plants inspected..."

 Plywood, Wood Plant ComDust Investigations Top Week's Reports

Combustible sawdust turned up in unacceptable levels in 48 of 83 wood and forest products plants inspected in British Columbia this summer, says the Vancouver Sun newspapers.

While the government agency WorkSafeBC had been inspecting sawmills and later plywood, pulp and secondary wood products firms, the newspaper's freedom of information request  named names and forced more public disclosure by the agency.

Plywood firms (West Fraser and Tolko are just two examples) were ordered to clean up; as well as secondary wood products manufacturers (some examples are C&C Wood, Teal Cedar, and Northern Engineered Wood Products). A complete list is at this link.

Combustible dust explosions racked two British Columbia sawmills earlier this year, killing four and injuring 52 others. This week the government said it would fine the Babine Sawmill - owned by Portland, OR-based Hampton Affiliates, and Lakeland Mills $625,000 each. Attorneys may bring charges against management with possible jail terms of 6 months.

Babine owners Hampton Affiliates announced December 4 it would rebuild and reopen the mill by 2014, regardless of the legal outcomes. Steve Zika, Hampton’s CEO says the new plant will be one-third smaller owing to less low ability will have the ability to cut metric and ALS dimension lumber for a variety of markets.

Here are the top wood industry reports from the week>>
Combustible Dust ComDust: What Woodworkers Need to Know
By Jamison Scott | Updated: 11/28/2012 1:22:00 PM
With the increase of combustible dust incidents, OSHA is visiting woodworking facilities with greater frequency, says Air Handling Systems Jamison Scott. Read more

Lakeland Mills Explosion Fines, Possible Jail Time in BC ComDust Explosions
By Karen Koenig | Updated: 12/04/2012 1:39:00 PM
Babine Forest Products and Lakeland Mills could each face fines of  $652,000 if found guilty of violating the Workers Compensation Act. Combustible dust explosions racked the sawmills earlier this year, killing four, injuring 52. Read more

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Wood Pellet Maker Settles OSHA ComDust Complaint

This story is an example of a process that manufactures "fuel", a wood pellet operation, and how critical it is to provide hazard analysis and the right engineering and administrative controls to help prevent fires and explosions. The proper safety systems can help protect processes that produce combustible dust from loss of production, injury, life safety, business continuity, OSHA fines, reputation in the industry and community, as well as the mental and emotional well being of employees.

The video below shows smoke from the storage silo, and the fire chief describes how an ember was allegedly created in a pelletizer, and was conveyed to the pellet cooler, where fire traveled from the cooler to the dust collector, and silo.  This is a common fire and explosion scenario in the pellet manufacturing process.

From Woodworking network.

Wood Pellet Maker Settles OSHA ComDust Complaint

By Rich Christianson | 11/29/2012 2:25:00 PM

BOSTON – New England Wood Pellet LLC, which sustained a series of explosions and fires at its plant in Jaffrey, NH, has agreed to take corrective action to prevent future outbreaks, as part of its negotiated settlement with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

New England Wood Pellet Fire
Aftermath of the Oct. 20, 2011 explosion and fire at New England Wood Pellet from a news report posted on Youtube by WMUR TV.
The pellet manufacturer, which had contested citations and fines issued by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, also agreed to pay a fine of $100,000. The company had faced proposed fines totaling $147,000.
The settlement related to an Oct. 20, 2011 fire that took 15 hours for more than 100 firefighters from 12 towns to extinguish. (See video of WMUA-TV-s report of the aftermath of this fire at the bottom of this story.) A follow-up inspection by OSHA concluded that a buildup of sawdust on surfaces throughout the plant "exacerbated" other explosion and fire hazards identified at the plant.

In addition, OSHA reported that the plant  lacked protective devices. The safety agency said New England Wood Pellet has agreed to implement measures to prevent, detect and suppress any potential fires and explosions. The company also will hire an independent third-party expert to evaluate the effectiveness of the corrective measures and the plant's process safety management systems.

Marthe Kent, OSHA's New England regional administrator. said, "It's well known that sawdust can present explosion hazards in addition to fire hazards. New England Wood Pellet cannot afford to gamble with the possibility of additional fires and explosions. The lives of its workers depend on effective safeguards being in place and in use at all times."

New England Wood Pellet, which opened in late 2007, experienced two earlier fires, according to the Sentinel Source. Company managers took exception to the April 27, 2012 press release that was issued relative to citations and fines relating to the Oct. 20, 2011 incident.

In a statement released a week after OSHA's press release, New England Wood Pellet said, "The company finds the recent public comments of OSHA's Area Director for New Hampshire about New England Wood Pellet to be one-sided and unfairly dismissive of the company's past and ongoing efforts to improve worker safety at its Jaffrey facility. Since 2008, New England Wood Pellet has worked cooperatively with her office, retained engineers and consultants, and spent over $2 million on various improvements to enhance worker safety at its Jaffrey facility.”

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Possible Jail Time in ComDust Explosions

This is a real possibility. With willful safety violations, not only do you risk losing production, business continuity, life safety, reputation, insurance coverage, but also possible jail time.

Fines, Possible Jail Time in BC ComDust Explosions

 By Karen M. Koenig | 12/04/2012 1:39:00 PM

Lakeland Mills Sawmill Explosion

 VANCOUVER - Babine Forest Products and Lakeland Mills could each face fines of up to $652,000 if found guilty of violating the Workers Compensation Act. Combustible dust explosions racked the two British Columbia sawmills earlier this year, killing four and injuring 52 others.

Although unlikely, up to six months jail time is also possible, news sources report.

Late last week, the Canadian provincial WorkSafeBC agency referred to national government legal agencies its investigation work in the Jan. 19 Babine Forest Products in Burns Lake and April 23 Lakeland Mills in Prince George. In each case, combustible dust and dust accumulation were found to be contributing factors to explosions that resulted in deaths. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police earlier had ruled out criminal negligence in both explosions.

The explosions at the mills, which were both processing pine beetle-killed wood at the time, “originated in spaces at the lower levels where conveyor systems were receiving and moving wood waste. They occurred around meal breaks and band saw changes. Friction from gear reducer motor sets has been identified as the likely ignition source in both explosions; wood dust was the fuel,” The Province, a local newspaper, quotes WorkSafeBC.

The two explosions occurring just a few months apart, spurred WorkSafeBC this spring to launch a combustible dust strategy requiring full-hazard identification, risk assessment and safety reviews at 280 sawmills and wood-related facilities. Although ongoing, WorkSafe BC inspections already have found that more than half of British Columbia’s sawmills, wood products and pulp facilities have wood dust levels that could result in fire or explosion.

According to the Vancouver Sun, of 83 facilities inspected by WorkSafeBC under Phase II of its combustible dust strategy, inspection records show that more than half “were cited for having levels of dust that ‘present a hazard of fire and/or explosion.’” Phase II of the program, which began in July, includes inspections of wood component manufacturers, planing mills, veneer and plywood plants, OSB plants and pulp mills in addition to sawmills which were covered under the Phase I directive.

The Vancouver Sun reports that of incidents cited under Phase II inspections, 21 involved dust collection system issues, the misuse of high pressure air for cleanup and lack of safe zone between workers and the dust collectors.