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Canada safety agency highlights increased sawmill dust explosion hazard in winter

11 November 2013

Industrial incident investigations by the United States Chemical Safety Board found that seven in eight fatal combustible dust explosions from 1995 to 2009 occurred during cold winter months when these weather conditions were most prominent, according to a hazard alert issued by British Columbia occupational safety agency WorkSafeBC.

One of the two recent fatal sawmill incidents in British Columbia occurred in the middle of winter, and the second occurred in early spring.

A number of changes can commonly occur in wood processing facilities as the weather becomes colder:
• control measures and clean-up practices that rely on the use of water may not be suitable or effective
• openings such as bay doors and wall dampers may be closed up increasing the degree of enclosure and reducing natural ventilation or make up air
• ventilation may be reduced or shut down to conserve heat
• re-circulation of air from exhaust systems may also increase
• portable heating units potentially introduce additional ignition sources into work spaces.


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