Conifex fined $75,000 by WorkSafeBC

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Conifex Timber operations in Fort St. James, B.C., circa 2011. Image: Conifex Timber Inc./Facebook

Conifex Timber Inc. of Vancouver, B.C., has been fined $75,000 by WorkSafeBC for three safety infractions in its pellet mill in Fort St. James, B.C.

WorkSafeBC, the Vancouver, B.C.-based industrial safety regulatory body for British Columbia, inspected this firm’s pellet mill and observed hazardous accumulations of combustible dust on surfaces and fixtures in three areas:

• Around the main conveyor belt;
• Under the sorters; and,
• Behind the sawmill chipper.

After four men died and 42 others were injured following separate fatal explosions at sawmills in Burns Lake and Prince George in 2012, WorkSafeBC came up with a combustible dust inspection strategy.

Up to 30 workers at the Conifex mill were exposed to a risk of serious injury or death in the event of a fire or explosion due to ignition of the dust.

This immediate hazard prompted WorkSafeBC to issue an order to stop work until the dust accumulations behind the chipper could be safely removed.

Although the firm has a written combustible dust control program that includes daily dust audits of the sawmill, WorkSafeBC’s inspection found that its inspections and cleanup activities were inadequate, as was its instruction of workers responsible for cleanup.

The firm’s failure to control and remove hazardous accumulations of combustible dust was a repeated and high-risk violation, according to WorkSafeBC.

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