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Forest Worker Safety Network

fwsn 2008


Forest Companies Back Dust Management, Bioenergy
WorkSafeBC Bulletin - Locking Out Sawmill Machinery Logging Video Feature Pick

fwsn 2008

BC forestry companies have invested roughly $100 million to rebuild and upgrade sawmills in the province since 2012.

By Nelson Bennett - Business in Vancouver

Roughly $100 million to rebuild and upgrade sawmills has been invested in the province by BC Forest Companies since 2012. But they have been relatively low-key about it.

The rebuilding of sawmills in Burns Lake and Prince George has been muted by the fatal explosions that prompted the investment, as well as an ongoing coroner’s inquest and a legal challenge from at least one of the companies fined by WorkSafeBC.

“They’re pretty sensitive,” said Bob Matters, Wood Council chairman for the United Steelworkers, which represents many B.C. sawmill workers. “There are community issues still around the fire and explosions, so they are, I know, trying to keep low-key.”

On January 20, 2012, two workers were killed and 20 injured when the Babine Forest Products sawmill in Burns Lake exploded. On April 23, 2012, a sawmill explosion at Lakeland Mills Ltd. in Prince George killed two and injured nearly two dozen.

Wood dust was blamed for the fires, and much of the forestry companies’ investment since 2012 has been related to dust management and improving safety, according to James Gorman, CEO of the Council of Forest Industries.

“Our companies,” he said, “are investing nearly $100 million in upgrades related to being able to manage combustible wood dust.”

This spring, Oregon-based Hampton Affiliates quietly reopened its Babine Forest Products in Burns Lake. The mill is smaller than the one that burned down. Matters said it employs about 100 workers compared with approximately 170 in the old mill.

Meanwhile, in Prince George, Sinclair Group Forest Products Ltd. is completing the reconstruction of its Lakeland Mills. According to public documents, the project’s construction cost is $13.8 million. Neither Hampton Affiliates nor Sinclair Group would speak to Business in Vancouver about the rebuilding projects.

“We are not speaking about Babine at all,” Hampton Affiliates corporate secretary Vicki Shaylor told BIV. “The purchase price isn’t something that our CEO would share, nor would he make any remarks to the media while we’re in an ongoing process with the government and WorkSafe.”

She referred to a $1 million fine WorkSafeBC levied against the company in April, which Hampton Affiliates announced it would challenge. WorkSafeBC also fined Lakeland Mills $724,163.

Even companies that did not have mill fires have been investing in new equipment to control dust. Last month, Conifex Timber Inc. announced a $12 million investment in new dust-management technology at its mills in Fort St. James and Mackenzie.

Conifex is also the latest B.C. forestry company to make a major investment in bioenergy. The company is commissioning a new $100 million bioenergy plant that will burn wood waste from its sawmill operations to generate power, which will be sold to BC Hydro over a 20-year period.

Meanwhile, last month, Canfor Corp. announced it will invest $58 million in new wood pellet plants at sawmills in Chetwynd and Fort St. John.

Apart from those kinds of investments, it’s unlikely any new sawmills will be built in B.C. for decades, at least not in the Interior. If anything, more sawmills are expected to close, as B.C.’s fibre basket shrinks. (One exception is a small mill built recently by Duz Cho Logging for the McLeod Lake Indian Band.)

The annual allowable cut (AAC) spiked at about 77 million cubic metres in response to a massive die-off of pine from the mountain pine beetle infestation. But that windfall of wood has been pretty much used up, and the AAC is expected to drop to 42 million cubic metres by 2020 and stay there for a couple of decades.

“That means you’ve got a lot of mills chasing those trees,” Gorman said. “So you’re going to see further consolidation. You’re not going to see new sawmills being constructed in British Columbia. We have a supply constraint problem here.”

If any new mills are built in B.C., it is likely to be on the West Coast, which escaped the pine beetle infestation, said Pat Bell, the former B.C. forests minister who is now Conifex’s executive vice-president. .” 

Courtesy of Business in Vancouver - Oct 7, 2014.

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Workers have suffered serious injuries from contact with moving parts because they were unaware there could be a danger even after shutting off the machine and applying locks to it.

Spinning saw blades, knives, and other moving parts of machinery can be dangerous even after the machine has been shut off and locked out.

There have been three recent incidents at sawmills that resulted in serious lacerations or amputations. In these incidents, blades were still rotating or spinning heads were freewheeling to a stop when workers reached inside the machine or contacted the moving parts in some other way. In each incident, workers thought the equipment had been locked out.

Turning off a machine and applying a lock is not all there is to lockout. If blades are still “spinning down,” the machine still has residual energy and is dangerous.

Safe work practices
As an employer or supervisor, you must educate and train your workers. If they are exposed to energy sources, the risk has to be effectively controlled.

Make sure your workers know what lockout is. Train them in all the steps and procedures required to shut down a machine safely. Follow up with workers to verify that they understand the risks and are following procedures properly.

You’re also responsible for making sure workers understand that moving parts must come to a complete stop before clearing a jam or working on a machine.

If a machine has a stopping mechanism, such as brakes, train your workers to use them after shutting off the machine and applying a lock. If there is no stopping mechanism, workers must wait until the moving parts have finished spinning down and come to a complete stop.

It’s not always easy to tell if moving parts have stopped. Looking at a machine, listening, or relying on touch points may not indicate that it has come to a complete stop. It’s important to have a system to tell if moving parts have stopped. You need to have guards and procedures in place to control the risk and protect your workers.

One solution is to use sensors on moving parts that will indicate with a flashing light if the part is still moving. Another possibility is to use interlocked guards with time-delay mechanisms that prevent access to moving parts until they have come to a complete stop.

What to consider when locking out
In addition to the regular steps of lockout, here are some things that may affect the lockout process.

  • Evaluate lockout procedures regularly, and ensure all energy sources are identified. Make sure procedures are easy to understand for all workers and relevant to all your machinery. A risk assessment is an important first step in making sure your procedures match your situation.

  • Some risk controls are better than others. When it comes to hazards, such as freewheeling blades, there is a hierarchy of risk control. First, try to eliminate the hazard completely through safeguarding or other methods. If elimination is not possible, use lockout policies and procedures.

  • Shift or personnel changes may interrupt a lockout process. Make sure procedures are in place to ensure communication and transfer of control so all workers know the status of machinery.

Download WorkSafeBC bulletin WS 2014-09.


FWSN Media Room

The Forest Worker Safety Network regularly reviews logging videos on The video below is our feature pick for this month. Click the video screen if you wish to enlarge the video for viewing on in new browser window on the website.  [back to top]

Feeding Crows and Loading Trucks: West 76

Moving timber out of northern Vancouver Island valley can be mix of tranquility and busyness. Located in the vicinity of Kelsey Bay, this video might be a typical Landing Bucker's lunch break - feeding the crows your left-overs from lunch while watching a couple of Madill Log Loaders throw a few heavy hemlocks onto a couple of off-road logging trucks - Fat Trucks. Video courtesy of Paul Laviolette - Plummy Video.

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Safe Workplaces... Our Right, Our Responsibility

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FWSN Tailgate Talk

Safe Workplaces... Our Right, Our Responsibility

Day of Mourning - April 28th

Forest Worker Safety Network

The Forest Workers Safety Network (FWSN) is an initiative of United Steelworkers (USW) District 3, which represents over 20,000 forest workers in British Columbia.

In light of rising forest industry fatalities and injuries, the FWSN has been formed as a response to a demand for a worker-focused information and networking system. The FWSN is available to all BC forest workers, at no cost, whether or not they are members of the United Steelworkers (USW) union.

The FWSN is initiating its activities by disseminating information developed for BC Coastal loggers and woodlands employees, from stump to dump and beyond. We are also collecting information on safety issues in the sector and on urgent and pressing issues that groups of workers and individuals face. We provide general health and safety information and information on the USW’s ongoing efforts to stop needless fatalities and injuries.

There will be regular communications for all workers who sign up.

Join the Forest Workers Safety Network today!  [top]

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Forest Workers Safety Network - 2009