Canadian Biomass Magazine

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Editorial: Dust off the program

August 25, 2022  By Maria Church


Photo: Annex Business Media.

This year was the 10th anniversary of the two B.C. sawmill explosions that killed four people and injured many others. 

WorkSafeBC’s investigation for both incidents pointed to a combination of the concentration of dispersed wood dust in the air and friction from moving equipment. Ineffective dust control measures were found at both sites.

It’s an important reminder that complacency can be fatal, especially in an industry that processes a combustible material.  

For the sixth year in a row, Canadian Biomass, along with our sister magazine Canadian Forest Industries, turned the spotlight on dust with our annual Dust Safety Week. Over five days in July, we shared on our website and social channels new and archived content from our partners to highlight best practices when it comes to dust management in wood processing facilities. 

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One of this year’s contributions was from WorkSafeBC’s Alexandra Skinner, who wrote about the importance of reviewing dust management programs regularly. She quoted WorkSafeBC prevention field services manager Budd Phillips, who says the pandemic likely drew away resources from proper maintenance and evaluation of those programs. Now, he says, is the time to revamp dust management programs to reflect evolving operational needs.

“We owe it to those who lost their lives or were injured to never forget the impact those explosions had on their families, their job sites and their communities – and to remain vigilant in order to prevent a tragedy like that from ever happening again,” Phillips says. 

From what I’ve seen over the past few years, the wood pellet industry has certainly stepped up to the plate. 

The Wood Pellet Association of Canada regularly takes the lead in creating, sharing or participating in initiatives to promote safer pellet operations. They’ve hosted summits, workshops, virtual events and webinars all dedicated to sharing the latest safety research. 

Their latest webinar on July 18 was on deflagration isolation in wood pellet production, presented by Kayleigh Rayner Brown, an expert in process safety and hazard analysis. 

In her presentation, Rayner Brown recommended pellet operations keep in mind the “inherently safer design” principles of moderation and simplification when building new facilities, considering cap-ex programs, and more. Find the full presentation on the BC Forest Safety Council’s YouTube page.

Why not make Dust Safety Week your yearly reminder to book in a review of your plant’s dust management program? We’ll keep the reminder coming. 

And I’d like to once again thank this year’s Dust Safety Week sponsors for making it all possible: Biomass Engineering & Equipment, Fike, VETS Group, Fagus GreCon and Rembe. Access the landing page year round on our website’s menu under Information. •


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