Sawmills in B.C.’s Interior were warned wood dust was an explosive risk before two deadly sawmill explosions earlier this year, in which wood dust is suspected as a factor. But the advice took a back seat to concern that dust was harmful to workers’ lungs.
In thousands of pages of 2007 to 2011 WorkSafeBC inspection reports, obtained by The Vancouver Sun under a freedom of information request, wood dust was highlighted as a concern nearly 100 times, primarily as a health risk and possible carcinogen.
Forest companies, the United Steelworkers union and individual workers at the two mills that exploded have said the risk of wood dust explosions wasn’t widely known, but WorkSafeBC inspection reports show that multiple warnings were issued to a number of mills before the two deadly explosions.
United Steelworkers union safety specialist Ron Corbeil said it now appears there was enough information known, which also included warnings coming out of the United States, that more attention should have been paid to wood dust’s explosive potential.