Newspaper article The Canadian Press

U.S. Lab Examining Dust from B.C. Mill but Blast Cause Still Unknown: U.S. Lab to Examine Mill Dust after Deaths

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

U.S. Lab Examining Dust from B.C. Mill but Blast Cause Still Unknown: U.S. Lab to Examine Mill Dust after Deaths

Article excerpt

VANCOUVER - An American laboratory is examining dust samples from a northern British Columbia mill explosion that killed two workers, but the province's workplace safety agency is cautioning that sawdust from dry wood remains only one of several possible causes.

The Jan. 20 explosion at the Babine Forest Products mill in Burns Lake was the first of two deadly mill explosions this year. The second incident last week in Prince George killed another two workers.

Officials at WorkSafeBC, the province's workers' compensation board, hope a U.S. lab can determine whether dust from pine-beetle infested wood was a factor in the Burns Lake explosion.

The agency said that if that was the case, new guidelines may be needed to limit dust in the province's lumber mills.

"If this (dust) is identified as being critical, that would give us the information to look at what has happened here and what we should do differently," WorkSafeBC vice-president Roberta Ellis told reporters Wednesday during an update on the Burns Lake investigation.

There has been speculation that both disasters may have been linked to airborne sawdust, which can be highly explosive if left uncontrolled, but Ellis stressed investigators are still far from determining the cause of either fatal blast.

Investigators are working to determine what fuelled the explosion, and what ignited that fuel.

They've narrowed down potential fuel sources to dust, natural gas or propane, and are trying to find out whether a hot surface, friction from motors or saw blades, or electricity sparked the blast. They're also looking into whether production levels, the type of wood processed at the mill, the facility's ventilation system or the extremely cold weather increased the risk of an explosion.

The province has workplace safety rules that require mill operators to control dust levels, but they mostly relate to keeping the air safe for workers to breathe. …

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