WorkSafeBC issues stop-work order to Aspen Planers in Merritt, British Columbia, after inspector finds dust build-up that could disperse, come into contact with ignition sources; company spokesman says order is 'good wake-up call'

LOS ANGELES , September 23, 2013 () – WorkSafeBC ordered Aspen Planers Ltd.'s sawmill in Merritt to stop work because of a build-up of wood dust, according to a report by The Vancouver Sun. The safety watchdog made the order on Sept. 11 after finding wood dust had built up sufficiently to pose an explosion or fire risk.

Aspen Planers cleaned up the wood dust by the following day, and WorkSafeBC lifted the order. It now requires the company to provide a written plan on the steps it will take to follow regulations, and to draw up its own dust-control program that plan must include consideration of new equipment.

Aspen Planers spokesman David Gray said the company had received a "good wake-up call." He said he believed the company had been ahead of other mills in its approach to combustible wood dust, noting that it had never before been cited by WorkSafeBC for failing to adequately control wood dust.

Gray said that the company had probably become "a little smug," and was not hiding from the issue. "Anything we can do better, we try to do better," he said, adding that workers at the mill were now "clearly focused on the ball."

WorkSafeBC's VP of prevention Al Johnson said he was a little surprised that the agency had to issue a stop-work order nearly 18 months after issuing directives to the province's sawmills on controlling wood dust, reported The Vancouver Sun. He compared the situation to speeding or texting while driving, saying that people understand and hear the stories, but for some reason ignore them.

The inspection of Aspen Planers by WorkSafeBC safety officer Vince Strain found dust build-up on duct work and heat sources such as lights that were in excess of 1/8 in. on more than 5% of the enclosed area. Strain said in his report that the dust accumulations could be dispersed into the air, and come into contact with ignition sources. He said this would pose a high risk of fire or explosion and concluded that WorkSafeBC had reasonable grounds to believe the dust build-up in the sawmill posed an "immediate danger" likely to result in the death or severe injury of a worker.

The primary source of this article is The Vancouver Sun, Vancouver, British Columbia, on Sept. 21, 2013.

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