Canadian Biomass Magazine

Four takeaways from Dust Safety Week 2020

June 26, 2020
By Ellen Cools

Dust Safety Week 2020 comes to an end today after five days of sharing exclusive content focused on combustible dust best practices, technical information and solutions to help pellet plants and sawmills keep their operations and operators safe.

Here are some of the key takeaways from this week:

1) Lightning doesn’t have to strike

David Murray, co-chairperson of the Manufacturing Advisory Group and the corporate safety, HR and environment manager for Gorman Group, reflected upon the 2012 B.C. combustible dust explosions and the lessons learned since then.

“While it is never wise to suggest a critical safety challenge is solved, in this case, it appears that the efforts by so many have made that necessary step-change occur,” Murray writes.


But, industry must be careful not to become complacent or adopt the “it won’t happen to me (again),” mentality, he cautions.

2) Demystifying the risks

Several feature articles this week emphasized the importance of conducting risk assessments, such as a Dust Hazards Analysis (DHA), to protect workers and facilities.

WorkSafeBC outlined the steps to take when conducting a risk assessment to identify the potential hazards of combustible wood dust. Finding the right professional, documenting your hazards and reviewing and updating your risk assessment continuously are just some of the key actions to take to be compliant with health and safety regulations.

Similarly, when it comes to conducting a DHA, constantly reviewing and updating your dust hazards and recommended actions is crucial. Rembe’s Jeramy Slaunwhite outlined the who, what, when and why of DHAs, while Fauske & Associates’ Mark Yukich and Ashok Ghose Dastidar got into the nitty gritty of how dust particle size can impact a DHA.

To help demystify the dust hazard analysis, we also hosted a free one-hour webinar on June 25 – a first for Dust Safety Week. More than 120 people tuned in to hear VETS Sheet Metals’ Francis Petit and Rembe’s Jeramy Slaunwhite present a step-by-step explanation of what needs to be included in a DHA, why it’s necessary, how to apply it to your facility and more. If you missed out, don’t worry – you can sign up to receive a recording of the webinar here.

Finally, WPAC’s Fahimeh Yazdan Panah shared some best practices for managing wood fibre storage and combustible dust.

3) Explosive data

Fires and explosions present a significant hazard in the wood and wood products industry, as Chris Cloney, Ph.D., managing director and leader researcher at DustEx Research, explained in an article sharing key findings from the 2019 Combustible Dust Report. Since DustEx Research began recording fires, explosions, injuries and fatalities in the Combustible Dust Incident Database in 2016, results “indicate that dust collection systems may have the largest number of fires and explosions reported,” he shared.

Fike has also been gathering data on explosions, but, in this case, they have been testing whether explosion isolation flap valves are safe in real-world conditions. Their test data proves that “potential performance problems exist with many ATEX-certified explosion isolation flap valves, which are currently available for purchase and even installed in many Canadian facilities.”

4) Equipment matters

When it comes to managing dust, having the right equipment is key. We published our newest equipment spotlight for dust collection and suppression systems in 2020. BossTek’s Mike Lewis also shared what to look for when selecting dust control equipment.

Safety learning never stops

All of these feature stories and more are available year-round on our Dust Safety Week landing page, which will continue to serve as the place to find best practices and information on dust safety.

Thank you to our Dust Safety Week 2020 sponsors and safety partners: WorkSafeBC, Fike, VETS Sheet Metal and Biomass Engineering & Equipment.

Want to get involved in Dust Safety Week 2021? Email Ellen Cools at

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