Local sawmills and those across the province must review the safety of their facilities before submitting to a WorkSafe BC inspection following a fatal mill explosion in Prince George last week.
Labour Minister Margaret MacDiarmid vowed to order inspections at every wood-processing plant in the province after an explosion at the Lakeland sawmill in Prince George on the night of April 23—the second of two B.C. mill explosions in the last four months.
One man, Allan Little, died in the explosion. Another man, Glenn Roche, died the next day of burns that he suffered in the blast, while dozens of others were injured.
Last January, two people were killed in an explosion at the Babine mill in Burns Lake.
"The order has been delivered to all of the sawmill employers," said WorkSafe BC communications officer Megan Johnston Tuesday.
Johnston said her agency began distributing the order for inspections to employers last Thursday.
The order requires employers at sawmills to "undertake a comprehensive risk assessment with respect to hazards created by combustible dusts", including a full inspection of their facilities, as soon as possible.
In addition, employers must "develop and implement an effective combustible dust control program based on the risk assessment."
"We've already started a bunch of stuff since the two disasters up north," said Erik Norgaard, manager of Ardew Wood Products in Merritt. That includes reviewing cleanup procedures, he said.
"The more combustible product, the more risk there is.
"Regular housekeeping is a big part of it."
Norgaard stressed that Ardew has worked hard to safeguard its 60 mill employees before the WorkSafe inspector arrives.
"I haven't seen any solid information on what caused them, but we're doing everything we can ahead of time."
After the internal inspection, a WorkSafe prevention officer will conduct a followup check before May 9.
WorkSafe BC is also known as the provincial Workers' Compensation Board and enforces occupational health and safety regulations in British Columbia.
The order notes that an employer must provide a separate exhaust system if its operations produce material in the air that could catch on fire or explode.
"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," it adds.
A WorkSafe BC inspector at the Lakeland sawmill wrote in 2009 that processing pine beetle-killed wood could affect the properties of sawdust in the air, the Prince George Citizen reported Monday.
The inspector's report noted that the majority of lumber processed at the mill was beetle-killed pine.
Since the wood was drier when it arrived, its sawdust would be drier as well, it was believed.