Bookmark and Share
Join Today
Media Room
Info Sheets
Take Action

WFP Hazard Alert
Click here to view the WFP Hazard Alert.

Click here to view the 2005 Stop The Killing: BC Forest Fatalty Summit video.

WorkSafe BC & You - Assistance with filling out claim forms, reporting unsfae workplaces, and getting a WorkSafe BC Inspector to your worksite.

Click here for your information on your right to refuse unsafe work.

Safe Workplaces... Our Right, Our Responsibility

Click here to download Adobe Acrobat 8.0 for free.

Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional


Forest Worker Safety Network

fwsn 2008


Increasing Sawmill Safety: Post-Burns Lake/Lakeland Mills
What's Up With WHMIS? How About WHMIS 2015! Logging Video Feature Pick

fwsn 2008

Combustible dust abatement system.

A culture of increased safety has emerged in the B.C. forest industry, four years after two horrific sawmill accidents that claimed four lives.

Jim Stirling, Logging & Sawmilling Journal - March/April 2016

A culture of increased safety is slowly emerging in British Columbia’s sawmilling industry.

The development is a child of tragedy. Fine sawdust-induced explosions and fires—three months apart—at two separate sawmills in central B.C. killed four men, injured dozens more and shocked an industry.

The 2012 horrors at Babine Forest Products near Burns Lake and Lakeland Mills in Prince George demanded and received an immediate reaction from the forest industry. A result, four years later, is the recognition that workers have the right to a safe workplace in practice as well as in theory.

“I think hourly employees and management see this. Yes, production is important but so is safety,” says Ken Higginbotham, Manufacturers Advisory Group (MAG) project manager.

The MAG was formed in 2009 as an ad hoc group drawn from about a dozen of B.C.’s major forest companies. Its members shared best practices in forest safety issues. When then Canfor president Don Kayne and West Fraser chairman Hank Ketcham held an emergency meeting after the Lakeland explosion, they looked to the MAG as a ready-made vehicle of executives familiar with each other to define an effective and practical response to the sawmill sawdust issue.

The role of sawdust as an explosion risk trigger—especially when in its finest granular form—was clinically analyzed through FPInnovations, the forest industry research institute. Working from the FPInnovations’ findings, the CEO task force through MAG and its other forest industry partners developed an audit standard around the management of combustible dust. The audit was subsequently made available to all sizes of wood product manufacturing plants to use as they deemed appropriate.

The formalization of the MAG under the direction of the CEO task force continued in April 2015, when the group came under the wing of the B.C. Forest Safety Council. The Canadian Pellet Association is also connected now to the B.C. Forest Safety Council.

“We’re in our early days, but the MAG gets very good support from the forest safety council,” says Higginbotham.

Vacuum system in clean sawmill basement.

The determination to make B.C.’s sawmills safer is evident in other ways. Agencies like regulator WorkSafeBC conduct more mill inspections for sawdust management. Knowing more about the properties of combustible sawdust has accelerated development of machines and methods to more effectively remove the material from the work environment. Equipment manufacturers have been quick to supply the means to meet mill owners’ goals.

The investment in dollar terms alone has been considerable. West Fraser and Canfor, the two largest sawmill operators in B.C., estimate they’ve each invested around $50 million on managing combustible dust within their respective operations.

More powerful bag houses, 20 metres high, have become regular features of a modern sawmill’s skyline. Rotating bags within the towers filter dust particles sucked out from around machine centres and conveying systems through an elaborate collection of pipes and ducts like a giant vacuum system. Sawmills have become much safer places, with dust accumulations sharply reduced and potential dust ignition sources like lights and electrical equipment moved or contained. The air is cleaner and clearer as a result.

Sinclar Enterprises estimates the dust control improvement factor at its rebuilt Lakeland sawmill in Prince George at more than seven times the mill it replaced. The new Lakeland mill, with the advantage of literally being built from the ground up, is a showcase of safety first features. This includes attention to the small details, like eliminating level surfaces where dust can accumulate.

More sawmill workers have a heightened awareness—through training—of sawdusts’ potential volatility: it was, after all, four of their fellow workers who died on the job at Babine and Lakeland.

Separate coroner’s inquests were held into the Babine and Lakeland deaths. One of the 33 recommendations from the coroner’s jury at the Lakeland inquest was for WorkSafeBC to establish mandatory training and education for a mill’s health and safety committee members. Another jury recommendation instructs mills to report “near miss” incidents to WorkSafeBC, rather than just those incidents resulting in time loss injuries. Some mills have created new jobs on the mill floor where sawdust monitoring and control is a major part of the responsibilities.

The cumulative effect of all these initiatives is solid progress on managing combustible dust in B.C.’s sawmills and wood processing plants. The situation is reflected in figures obtained from WorkSafeBC by the Vancouver Sun newspaper through a freedom for information request. WorkSafeBC inspections of more than 100 sawmills and a dozen wood pellet manufacturing plants in B.C. during 2015 resulted in no citations for dust accumulations considered a risk for fire or explosion.

No dust on operating floor.

However, WorkSafeBC inspectors did issue orders for improvements to be implemented for six mills’ dust control programs. In contrast, many more mills had been cited for unacceptable wood dust levels during WorkSafeBC’s previous rounds of inspections in 2013 and 2014.

Hourly sawmill workers are in the front line. ”Yes, we have made significant progress curtailing dust and shavings in our sawmills,” agrees Frank Everitt, president of Local 1-424 of the Steelworkers Union, the union representing them and a participant in the MAG. “But we have to continue the battle to get as much done as possible.”

Everitt notes dust mitigation issues are routinely on the agendas of in-mill safety meetings. “We try to emphasize the need to stay vigilant,” he adds.

The MAG’s Ken Higginbotham concurs and says there have been positive signs the safety focus is being maintained. “In the last four years, I’ve been impressed with the consistency of attention.” He cites the continued personal involvement of the forest company CEOs. When the MAG and the forest safety council were discussing their new working relationship, the idea of appointing senior members of the mills’ management teams to serve on MAG was broached. “To a person, the CEOs said ‘No’. The commitment from the top remains.”

The MAG has become more than just a sharer of good safety practices.

The group is currently also investigating other ways to better safeguard sawmills. The work involves anything that relates to the safeguarding issue from hand railings in mills to lock out procedures and requirements surrounding dealing safely with jam-ups in planer mill operations, says Higginbotham. “It appears to me, there is more of a culture in sawmills today about safety generally.”

This article is courtesy of the Logging & Sawmilling Journal - March/April 2016.

Something to say about this story? Email us at:


In 2015, Canada's WHMIS program changed to align with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).

In 2015, Canada’s Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) was updated to be in line with similar systems in the United States and other countries. It’s now referred to as WHMIS 2015 and also as the globally harmonized system (GHS). It’s being rolled out gradually until 2018, to give workers, employers, and suppliers enough time to adjust to the changes that affect classification of hazards, labeling requirements, and safety data sheets.

You can get much more information about this from these videos made by WorkSafeBC. One is for employers, one is for workers, and they’re both available with subtitles in Chinese, Korean, Punjabi, Spanish, and Vietnamese. The French one has audio in addition to subtitles. For even more information, check out the WHMIS portal on the WorkSafeBC website.

Courtesy of Speaking of Safety Blog - March 2016.                                  [top]

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.  [top]

On the Hillside - In The Clear Series

This is part one of the four part In The Clear video series from The video below is an introduction to being at the right place at the right time, every time, on the hillside. Logging workplaces are constantly changing and present many potential hazardous conditions for yarding and loading crews, it's important that the work is planned to ensure that the work can be conducted safely and that there are constant reassessments to ensure there are no new or additional hazards. This is important to avoid having crew in the “Cone of Danger” where any disturbance could send logs, rocks or running lines down the hill. In every case, yarding may have to be suspended if someone is working in the “Cone of Danger”.  Courtesy of

Something to say about this video? Email us at:

Safe Workplaces... Our Right, Our Responsibility

A USW Health & Safety Production - Click to view.
USW OH&S Video/a>

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!  [back to top]

home  |  about us  |  contact us  |  worksafebc & you  |  your rights  |  join today  |  media room  |  info sheets
take action  |  resources  |  feedback  |  links  |  terms of use  |  site map  |  return to top

Forest Workers Safety Network - 2009