WorkSafeBC Combustible Dust Initiative Overview
Richmond, B.C., March 4, 2014
— On January 31, 2014, WorkSafeBC concluded a three-month inspection of
all active sawmills across B.C. The inspections began November 1,
2013. These targeted inspections were in support of the ongoing
Combustible Dust Strategy that was initiated in 2012. The objective of
these targeted inspections was to evaluate current compliance with
combustible dust management requirements, and confirm that every sawmill
has an effective and sustainable plan for the management of wood dust. A
core team of 10 prevention officers conducted the inspections. In
total, 144 locations were inspected.
WorkSafeBC officers conducted these
inspections to monitor how effectively mills were meeting their
combustible dust management requirements. Under the Workers Compensation Act,
all employers have the legal responsibility to keep their worksites
safe from injury and disease. WorkSafeBC officers conduct inspections
to determine the extent to which employers are managing safety on their
worksites. Where prevention officers find issues that can cause an
unsafe environment for workers, officers will educate and consult, and
as necessary, write orders to oblige the employer to address those
safety issues; as required, WorkSafeBC may also apply administrative
Inspection results for the Combustible Dust
Initiative indicate that many sawmill operators have put significant
efforts into improving the management and control of combustible dust,
with a substantial number of employers found to be in compliance with
the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation. However, not all
employers were found to be currently achieving compliance.
Inspection results summary
- 249 inspections were undertaken related to combustible dust regulations.
- 83 of the 144 locations inspected were in
compliance at the time of inspection and received no orders related to
combustible dust. Many of those locations had dust control plans
incorporating significant engineering controls to augment and mitigate
the amount of manual dust cleanup required.
- 61 employers were issued a total of 93
orders related to combustible dust. Most of these orders were for
unacceptable levels of dust accumulations outside normal production
areas; i.e. basements, crawl spaces, overhead areas, areas hidden behind
motor control centres or cabinets, and outside areas.
- 11 employers were issued a total of 13
stop-work orders due to unacceptable accumulations of secondary dust and
other significant violations, which posed an immediate hazard to the
health and safety of workers. In most cases, the areas noted were
cleaned the same day, allowing production to resume by the next shift.
These locations are subject to frequent ongoing inspections to ensure
compliance is maintained while mill operators address the challenges
- Two locations inspected during the
initiative received a second stop-work order and have been directed to
participate in a closely monitored compliance plan that includes weekly
submissions to WorkSafeBC prevention officers regarding their dust
management process. Officers are inspecting these locations at an
increased frequency during this monitored phase to ensure the workplaces
remain in compliance with WorkSafeBC requirements and expectations.
- WorkSafeBC officers will continue to
inspect sawmills on a regular basis to ensure that employers continue to
manage and safely remove combustible dust from their workplaces
- 17 warning letters were recommended during
this inspection phase to advise employers that an administrative penalty
may be considered for further similar violations of the regulations and
3 administrative penalties were recommended for violations of the
regulations. Warning letters and penalties are tools used by officers,
as necessary, to motivate certain employers to comply with the Workers Compensation Act
and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation. The application of
either sanction process is dependent on several factors, including the
level of risk related to combustible dust violations and the motivation
required of the employer.
From the Globe and Mail:
B.C.’s workplace safety watchdog says a three-month inspection blitz shows the forest industry is getting better at cleaning up potentially hazardous sawdust, but only 83 of the 144 locations inspected were in compliance with regulations.
Safety inspectors conducted 249 inspections in the last three months targeting combustible dust – a campaign that began with two deadly sawmill explosions in 2012.
In a report released Tuesday, WorkSafeBC concluded “many sawmill operators have put significant efforts into improving the management and control of combustible dust.”
Yet 11 employers were issued a total of 13 stop-work orders during the three-month period “due to unacceptable accumulations of secondary dust and other significant violations, which posed an immediate hazard to the health and safety of workers.” In most cases, the areas were cleaned the same day, allowing production to resume by the next shift.
Although the report does not identify which companies failed to comply with safety standards, inspection reports obtained through a Freedom of Information request show that some of the province’s leading forest companies are among those now facing penalties for unsafe working conditions.
Here are some of the violations the inspectors found:
Sigurdson Forest Products Ltd., Williams Lake:
“The edger created a potential combustible dust cloud with an ignition hazard in the form of a bare, unprotected metal halide light bulb within the cloud. Dust accumulations were observed on interior building structure inside the sawmill where the product exited the edger.
“The mezzanine (roof over the mill lunch room) was observed with accumulations of combustible wood dust. The shavings bin conveyor belt and pulley drive was observed buried in secondary wood dust.”
Tolko Industries, Williams Lake:
“Primary and secondary combustible dust has collected in several areas at this employer’s location. The areas that require immediate attention [are] the chip screen area in the sawmill and blower room ceiling area in the planer building. The employer was directed to suspend production in the planer until the concentrations of combustible dust [are] safely removed from the blower room ceiling. The sawmill can operate if the combustible dust can be safely removed from the chip screen area.”
Weyerhaeuser Company, Princeton:
“Excessive levels of both primary and secondary accumulations of combustible dust were found throughout the debarker/cutoff saw building, sawmill operating floor and sawmill basement.
“Primary accumulations of combustible dust were found built-up and in contact with potential ignitions sources such as conveyor tailspool or roller bearings or the accumulations had been allowed to persist and spread to other areas.
“Secondary accumulations of combustible dust exceeding 1/8" were observed on beams, rafters, equipment, light fixtures, cable trays, electrical MCC units (on top and inside), field transformers, electrical motors & gear reducers, and wall [braces] throughout the mill. The secondary accumulations were in excess of five per cent of the overall surface area of the debarker/cut-off saw area, the sawmill operating floor, and the sawmill basement.”
Canfor Corp., Chetwynd:
“Several areas within the sawmill operating floor and basement were found to have combustible dust accumulations in excess of acceptable limits or were found in contact with potential ignition sources.
“Examples of inadequately maintained ventilation systems in the planer mill were noted that included bent and damaged piping, ill-fitting enclosures, duct tape at joints, compromised bonding connections.
“The employer has failed to ensure that regular and adequate inspections are made of process equipment or facilities to prevent the accumulation of combustible dusts.”
Western Forest Products Inc., Chemainus:
“When the unacceptable accumulations of secondary dust under this locations planer crawl space [were] observed, this employer did not hesitate in shutting down production and initiating clean up.
“Unacceptable accumulations of fine secondary combustible dust was observed accumulated in a semi enclosed crawl space under this locations planer. The dust was present up to 1/2 inch accumulations in cable trays, up to 2.5 to 3 inches in depth under the vibrating conveyor and over 1/8th of an inch in depth on horizontal surfaces including the fire system piping and on the top of an electrical transformer. It is apparent that this location has not been cleaned for several months.”