New tools for BC manufacturers’ wood dust safety

Image from FIPI website

Image from FIPI website

Fire safety plans are critical when your work produces combustible dust.

In 2012, combustible dust accumulation led to the death of four workers and injury to 44 at sawmill explosions in Burns Lake and Prince George. In response, WorkSafeBC launched a Combustible Dust Initiative that includes hundreds of workplace inspections and new resources for employers.

One such resource – the new Fire Safety Plan Documentation Guide – makes it easier for employers to develop a fire safety plan, as required by the laws of three different jurisdictions within BC. The province’s Fire Inspection and Prevention Initiative (FIPI) plans to launch it on their website by January 2015.

“Many workplaces don’t have a very good fire safety plan, so we needed to put together some materials to help organizations develop fire safety plans,” says FIPI director Ray Roch. “It will help them gather all the information they need.”

Ray explained that in BC there are three agencies with jurisdiction over the different aspects of combustible dust management, as follows:

1) The BC Office of the Fire Commissioner and its Fire Services Act, under which is the BC Fire Code. The BC Fire Code includes requirements for dust-producing processes.

2) The BC Safety Authority and its Safety Standards Act with regulations that are “concerned about electrical and gas equipment in locations with combustible dust and that the workers who operate that equipment are competent to do so.”

3) WorkSafeBC’s requirement to “keep combustible dust accumulation below levels that would be considered dangerous.”

“We wanted to make sure employers could do what they needed to do – to comply with three sets of regulations. We need the three agencies to speak together in one voice, with no conflict between the regulations,” Ray says. “One of the ways the Fire Services Act and the BC Fire Code could address this was by having the workplace develop a robust fire safety plan.”

FIPI was created in November 2012 with a goal “to improve health and safety in wood products manufacturing by insuring that all the manufacturers were properly addressing combustible wood dust hazards,” reads the FIPI website.

Thanks to Ray for telling me more – and stay tuned for an update on how employers are using the new resource.


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