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New combustible wood dust policies take effect next month

JOC News Service
New combustible wood dust policies take effect next month

Starting Sept. 1, employers in the sawmill and wood product manufacturing sectors will have to undertake a combustible dust risk assessment, implement a dust management program and perform an audit of the program as soon as reasonable possible.

The new policies came about after the WorkSafeBC board of directors approved changes last month.

The new policies also create corresponding obligations on supervisors and workers to follow the programs.

According to WorkSafeBC, many of the employers already have functioning dust management programs  and may only need to make minor modifications to be compliant.

Others continue to have challenges and WorkSafeBC said it will be flexible in working with these employers to get them compliant.

Through the fall, there will be an "inspectional outreach" intended to help transition to the new framework.

Sawmills already in compliance with the last round of inspections can either do an independent inspection and reporting program or they can continue to have WorkSafeBC perform random inspections.

Those that have received stop work orders or penalties in the previous inspection period can either have WorkSafeBC conduct inspections or have an independent, third party do daily inspections and report to WorkSafeBC every week.

Other wood product manufacturers and pellet mills require more direct support and will be subject to a program of regular WorkSafeBC inspections.

The changes come after deadly sawmill explosion cases shook up the industry.

According to WorkSafeBC, explosions linked to poor wood dust management at two sawmills in B.C. that killed four and injured dozens were preventable.

Subsequent investigations into the incidents resulted in massive fines, as well as changes to WorkSafeBC investigations and regulations.

Babine Forest Products and Lakeland Mills Ltd. were hit with a combined $1.75 million in fines, although neither is facing criminal prosecution.

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