JOC ARCHIVES

April 1, 2013

Prince George sawmill will be rebuilt

A sawmill in Prince George, British Columbia will be reconstructed on the same site after being destroyed by an explosion and fire that killed two people last year.

“April 23, 2012 was the worst day in our company’s history, and it began a year of challenge and sorrow for all of us,” said Greg Stewart, president of Sinclar Group Forest Products, which is the parent company of Lakeland Mills.

“I want to acknowledge the families of Glenn Roche and Al Little, the two employees who lost their lives that night. It is in their memory, and to honour all those impacted by this tragic event, that we will rebuild for the future.”

The Sinclair Group recently announced plans to start construction this summer on a new sawmill, which will replace a facility that was destroyed about one year ago.

Demolition crews have begun to remove debris at the site.

However, the design of the new sawmill hasn’t been completed, so details such as its size and production capacity are not yet available.

The mill will continue to produce stud lumber, with the ability to manufacture metric lengths in addition to the American Lumber Standard.

This will allow the mill to be more flexible and enter new markets in southeast Asia and China in particular.

The previous mills capacity was about 225 million board feet per year.

The new mill is expected to have a smaller workforce of about 100 people, compared to 160 at the previous mill.

It will be integrated with the existing planer mill, which is still operational, and the energy system Lakeland operates in partnership with the City of Prince George.

An explosion at the Lakeland Mills’ site resulted in a fire that completely destroyed the sawmill.

Alan Little, a 43-year-old shift supervisor, was killed by the blast in Prince George, while Glenn Francis Roche, 46, died in Edmonton after being transferred there for treatment of critical burns.

Another 22 workers were injured in the blast, with 11 suffering from serious injuries.

The Lakeland mill explosion, as well as another explosion and fire at the Babine Forest Products sawmill in Burns Lake which killed two people on Jan 20, 2012, have been investigated by WorkSafeBC.

The occupational health and safety authority released some preliminary findings on May 14, which identified similarities that have been observed during the course of both investigations.

Even though no final conclusions have 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 located at the conveyor level, where electrical and/or mechanical equipment was in operation in areas contained by walls and equipment. These areas are at the basement or lower level of both of the mills.

As a result, WorkSafeBC issued orders to 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.

In addition, the B.C. Safety Authority issued orders to 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.

WorkSafeBC completed its investigations into the explosion in November 2012 and made a decision to pursue offences under the Worker’s Compensation Act, but have not released their findings.

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