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Canadian sawmill blast caused by wood dust accumulation

10 May 2013

The Vancouver Sun says a British Columbia Safety Authority investigation has concluded the root cause of the explosion at the Babine Forest Products sawmill, which killed two workers and injured 20 others in January 2012, was a failure to recognise and manage the explosive risks of wood dust.

The BCSA report, completed four months ago, provides the first details of investigations into the explosion and fire at the mill near Burns Lake in northern B.C. According to the newspaper, the investigation identified the possible ignition of the explosion as an electrical control panel, a high-watt bulb or an earlier fire.

An area below the band saw in the basement was identified as the possible area of the explosion, but the safety authority noted WorkSafeBC had identified a possible area of origin near a waste conveyor.

The safety authority investigation also found electrical equipment in the basement was not approved or configured for safe operation in a combustible dust environment.

"Therefore the normal operation of this electrical equipment presented possible ignition sources for either a fire or the explosion and their possible contribution to the incident could not be ruled out," said the report.

Neither the safety authority nor WorkSafeBC has released details of its investigations, saying they do not want to compromise any potential court action.

The BCSA has also completed its investigation into a second explosion and fire at Lakeland sawmill in Prince George that killed two workers and injured 19 others, but is not releasing that report either.

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