Occupational safety regulator upholds fines for fatal Canada sawmill explosion
15 November 2017
A WorkSafeBC review has upheld a decision to impose more than $1 million worth of penalties against Babine Forest Products for a catastrophic explosion and fire in January 2012 at the Burns Lake sawmill in British Columbia which killed two workers and injured more than 20 others. Babine owner Hampton Affiliates put in a number of appeals over the ruling, but the regulator has upheld the original decision.
According to the Prince George Citizen, the WorkSafeBC investigation concluded that wood dust was the major fuel for the explosion and fires.
It found that Hampton spent considerable amounts of money on upgrading the sawmill’s production capabilities and improving the dust management system, but it also found little work had been done on the sawmill dust collection system. This was despite the fact that an investigation of an earlier explosion and fire had identified a very large fuel load of dry dust.
Also, no adequate actions had been taken to control airborne wood dust, even though it was cited in December 2011 for unsafe levels within the mill.
The report concluded that effective actions should have been taken to control both the airborne dispersal of wood dust as well as the excessive accumulations on floors and surfaces. Such actions might have prevented this incident, the WorkSafeBC concluded.
An ineffective inspection and maintenance system, wood and weather conditions, the waste conveyor configurations and inadequate supervision of clean-up and maintenance staff were also cited as factors.
The penalties include a $97,500 administrative penalty and claims cost levy of $914,139.62 against Hampton.
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