May 23, 2012
Contractors willing to share expertise about mill safety
Electrical contractors in B.C. are ready to help regulatory authorities increase safety at sawmills across the province, after recent deadly explosions and fires at two facilities.
“The ECABC (Electrical Contractors Association of B.C.) fully supports the B.C. Safety Authority in their efforts to make the British Columbia sawmill industry a safer place”, said Deborah Cahill, president of the association.
“Our members stand by to provide their expertise to help in these efforts to prevent any more injuries or loss of life. Many of our members have worked for years both in construction and maintenance of sawmills around the province of B.C. and would be a willing resource for the safety authority.”
Earlier this month, the B.C. Safety Authority (BCSA) issued a safety order to the owners and operators of sawmills, which relates to the installation and maintenance of electrical equipment.
The BCSA initiative supports a safety order issued by WorkSafeBC, after preliminary investigations of two deadly sawmill explosions were conducted in the last three months.
Two people were killed on Jan. 20 in an explosion and fire at the Babine Forest Products mill near Burns Lake, B.C.
On April 23, two more people were killed in an explosion and fire at the Lakeland sawmill in Prince George, B.C.
“Although the investigations into the two recent fatal incidents are ongoing and the causes of those incidents have not been identified, this safety order is aimed at minimizing the risk of fire or explosion related to regulated electrical equipment being a potential combustion or ignition source in wood processing operations,” said Stephen Hinde, electrical safety manager at the BCSA.
WorkSafeBC released preliminary findings on May 14, which identified similarities during both investigations.
Even though final conclusions haven’t been reached, investigators are considering the possibility that a high concentration of wood dust in the air fuelled the massive explosions and resulting fires.
In both investigations, the ignition sources appear to have been at the conveyor level, where electrical and/or mechanical equipment was in operation in areas contained by walls and equipment.
These areas are in the basement or lower level of both of the mills.
“Electrical equipment is used throughout sawmills and during normal operation can create heat and electrical sparks,” said Hinde.
“This could act as an ignition source for a fire or explosion, so it’s important that mills ensure they are following the Safety Standards Act.”
WorkSafeBC officers have inspected 36 sawmills in the Interior North region.
A total of 59 inspection reports were issued and 23 compliance orders.
A directive issued by WorkSafeBC on April 26 orders all sawmill owners to comply with Occupational Health and Safety regulations by providing a separate exhaust ventilation system, if operations produce a combustible or flammable air contaminant that presents a risk of fire or explosion.
A large number of these operators are still working towards compliance with the order to conduct a risk assessment, as well as develop and implement a documented control plan, which includes training.
WorkSafeBC has also ordered sawmill operators to conduct a full hazard identification, risk assessment and safety review, with particular focus on combustible dust, dust accumulation and potential ignition sources.
The BCSA order requires mill operators to ensure that the interior of enclosures of electrical motor control centres, power distribution centres or similar switchgear are clear and free of potential explosive material such as dust.
Operators need to verify that electrical cabinet doors and covers for electrical equipment are closed and secured.
They also need to verify that ventilation systems for electrical equipment enclosures are clean, working properly and installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
Despite the fact that these safety orders are focused on the installation and maintenance of electrical equipment, other regulated technologies are still under investigation at Babine Forest Products, including propane and natural gas.
The gasses haven’t been ruled out as either an ignition or fuel source.
In addition to the safety orders, the BCSA is conducting a survey of electrical operating permits at a select group of wood processing plants to assess the safety of regulated electrical equipment and the effectiveness of mandated electrical maintenance programs.
This work is expected to be complete in May.
“When all the investigations are carried out and concluded in terms of what safety measures are needed, any electrical contractor will want to participate in efforts to increase overall safety, as well as enhancing any process to improve safety,” said Mike Crucil, vice president of F&M Installations, an electrical contractor based in Nanaimo with experience working in local sawmills.
|MOST POPULAR STORIES|
|TODAY’S TOP CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS|
These projects have been selected from 316 projects with a total value of $2,787,806,637 that Reed Construction Data Building Reports reported on Friday.
$1,000,000,000 Edmonton AB Prebid
$220,000,000 Medicine Hat AB Negotiated
$50,000,000 Calgary AB Prebid
- Construction Site Arson
- Historic church renovation reaches new heights
- Hiring of foreign workers for hospital project outrages union
- Festival of Architecture hits Halifax
- Winnipeg Southwest Transitway wins award
- Vendor performance is key measurement
- NDP leader spoke to police about corruption
- Big contract down under for ATCO Structures
- RFQ issued for Kamloops hospital project
- VIDEO: Economic Update May 21, 2013
- VIDEO: Competing in the trades
- New ETFO headquarters a benchmark design
- Viana steps up to rebuild burnt down playground
- Random drug testing about site safety, says expert
- Trying to define the “lowest price”
- High job vacancy rates for small business
- Minto to assist in zero energy housing project
|ALEX’S ECONOMICS BLOG|
Reed Construction Data Canada’s Chief Economist Alex Carrick discusses current developments in the North American economic environment with emphasis on the construction industry.
- An Overview of Prices and Sales in the Diverging U.S. and Canadian Housing Markets (April 25, 2013)
- Canada’s Precarious Dependence on the Commodity Price Super-Cycle (April 22, 2013)
- Twenty major upcoming residential and transportation terminal construction projects - April 2013 (April 15, 2013)