Employee safety is a priority for B.C. forest companies and it is why the industry acted quickly to improve wood dust management following two tragic sawmill explosions last year. Forestry CEOs immediately established a task force to lead an industry-wide response to better understand and manage combustible wood dust. Companies s hared safety resources, best practices and created a voluntary standard for wood dust management. Cleanup protocols were enhanced and strategies were developed for equipment and training to ensure every mill could be even safer.
On Dec. 2, the Forest Products Manufacturers Advisory Group— whose members represent about 65 per cent of B.C.’s lumber production— were recognized for these collaborative efforts to improve safety and received the BC Safety Authority’s Lieutenant Governor Safety Award for Excellence in Systems Safety.
The award recognizes the ongoing and exceptional industry collaboration to control wood dust. Effective and sustainable wood dust management is a process of continuous improvement and industry collaboration: competitors shared information about equipment setups, research and best practices for dust management. The task force also sponsored independent scientific research to inform all of their strategies, protocols and approaches to address challenges related to the fine dust of dry, dead mountain pine beetle wood that is processed in B.C.’s interior mills today.
Last July, the Manufacturers Advisory Group, with the assistance of insurance companies, released the Wood Dust Mitigation and Control Audit. The auditable standard can be used by companies of all sizes to provide independent assurance that their mills are safe. It is freely available from the WorkSafe BC website Sawmills Industry Resources page. The Manufacturers Advisory Group member companies are committed to utilizing this audit in their facilities beginning next year.
While the BC Safety Council’s Safety Award for Excellence in Systems Safety acknowledges the progress and achievements to date, B.C.’s forest companies remain committed to working together to ensure sustainable solutions are in place to manage dust and keep our mills safe today, tomorrow and into the future.
James Gorman, President and CEO of the Council of Forest Industries