Potentially explosive wood dust metre-deep at one B.C. mill: WorkSafeBC

Major fines levied against mills in Fort St. James, Vanderhoof, Quesnel

VANCOUVER — The latest statistics from WorkSafeBC show some lumber mills appear to be ignoring risks caused by dangerous buildups of potentially explosive wood dust.

The agency has posted administrative penalties levied for various infractions, including several involving sawmills where unsafe levels of sawdust have been found.

A $75,000 fine was imposed at the Conifex pellet mill in Fort St. James in October after a WorkSafe investigation found up to 30 workers were put at a severe risk of injury or death because of dust buildups in three areas.

NW Wood Preservers in Vanderhoof was fined more than $48,000 late last year when checks found the mill’s dust inspection program was informal and unwritten, and dust lay nearly eight centimetres deep in parts of its chipper room.

WorkSafe records show C. & C. Wood Products Ltd. in Quesnel was fined more than $68,000 after dust up to 10 centimetres deep was found around potential ignition sources, while a metre-deep pile of dust at a Moricetown mill led to a fine of nearly $7,000.

WorkSafeBC developed a combustible dust inspection strategy after four men died and 42 others were injured following separate fatal explosions at sawmills in Burns Lake and Prince George in 2012.

The Canadian Press