Much of that timber was and will be salvageable, but processing fire-damaged wood presents its own set of risks and hazards that need to be evaluated, planned for, and mitigated. In addition to the technological and quality issues that can arise, potential health and safety risks to workers need to be addressed by employers.
The most immediate exposure hazards for sawmill workers handling burnt timber are the ash and char that accompany the fire-damaged wood. Ash and char from forest fires can be complex mixtures that will vary depending on the temperature of the fire.
Char is composed of a variety of carbon-based compounds, which are formed at lower fire temperatures, some of which may be carcinogenic. As char is only partially combusted wood, char dust will remain combustible. Higher-temperature fires will also result in wood ash (calcium carbonate), which is no longer combustible but is a lung irritant.
Char dust and wood ash are both much finer than wood dust and will be easily breathable; long-term, repeated exposures at high concentrations have the potential to cause respiratory illness. Short-term health effects from exposure to wood char and ash can include eye, nose, and throat irritation, coughing, and allergic reactions. In the long term, exposure may lead to more serious health issues, including lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
As with any kind of respiratory hazard, employers must evaluate the exposure and minimize it with appropriate control measures. If a work process continues to expose workers to potentially harmful levels of these air contaminants, workers must be provided with a filtered booth or work area, or wear appropriate respiratory protection.
In addition to exposure hazards, the dust produced during processing may pose a higher risk of combustion. Burnt timber can be lower in moisture than intact timber, and the drier and finer the dust, the greater the risk of deflagration, or explosion. Char dust is itself highly combustible, so additional control measures may be required to ensure combustion risks are properly managed.
Beyond dust, new variables mean every aspect of production must be scrutinized through the lens of health and safety. Drier wood may behave differently, creating other risks as it moves through the production process.
For more information on evaluating, planning for and mitigating risks, the following resources can be found at worksafebc.com:
Guide: Combustible Dust in Wood Products Manufacturing
Safety bulletin: Exposure to ash — logging operations https://www.worksafebc.com/en/resources/health-safety/risk-advisory/exposure-ash-logging-operations-wildfires?lang=en
Barry Nakahara is WorkSafeBC’s manager of prevention field services in Prince George, B.C., and manager of interest for the manufacturing and occupational disease strategies.
Our video this year highlights the importance of learning from each other’s experiences through sharing stories. Fornebu Lumber’s safety and training co-ordinator Christian Fournier describes an incident where two fires were both ignited and safely put out in one day.
“We were very lucky that our staff acted very quickly and safely in order to contain the fire from spreading,” Fournier said.
Fournier said he chose to share this experience with others, including Fornebu Lumber’s corrective actions following the incident, to prevent this type of situation from occurring elsewhere. You can also find more details about the incident in Fournier’s article published this week.
Among our other main stories, you can also read about preventing a dust collector inlet explosion by regular CFI contributor and dust mitigation expert John Bachynski.
Fike’s Jef Snoeys, Jeff Mycroft, and Dave Buchanan outline concerns that arise from dust created during the processing of wood biomass, and best practices in the industry to mitigate those concerns.
And don’t miss the six questions to ask when choosing a dust collection system contractor by the VETS Group’s Erin Rayner.
Find those stories and much more from our archives on the Dust Safety Week 2018 landing page, which will continue to be a hub for the industry to learn best practices and find the latest information on dust safety and mitigation.
Content on our landing page will be hosted there for the next year for readers to reference.
Thank you to our sponsors and safety partners VETS and Fike:
He said that the new Forest Industry Forum was a model that allowed for an all-inclusive consultative and collaborative forum between industry, the regulator and labour, with one shared focus: to bring about the best solutions for improved safety outcomes.
[This article is part of our 2018 Dust Safety Week coverage. Find more articles here.]
Darren shared how the latest forum had come about, going back to the 2012 Lakeland and Babine sawmill explosions; subsequent fatality inquests; and then the Macatee Report.
While industry has previously worked with the regulator on safety matters, things had come to a point that there needed to be a process for consultation and collaboration with industry, labour, and the regulator on safety issues. He said the initial forums had become less effective over time because the structure and format of those forums was not designed for collaboration. As a result, he and Matt Franks, another MAG member and Canfor’s safety manager, had been charged by MAG to consult with WorkSafeBC on a process to address a need for sustained collaboration that would allow the building of a strong working relationship between industry, the regulator and labour to fully address emerging issues, risk reduction and compliance.
With better communications, collaboration and shared commitment between the three groups to solve challenges, they have developed a more efficient and effective process built on broad, qualified stakeholder input and engagement that they all believe will lead to improved safety standards and performance.
The framework has evolved away from looking at areas of concern to forming technical working groups – manufacturing and harvesting working groups. Both MAG and the Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC) feed into the technical manufacturing working group.
While the groups meet quarterly, they communicate constantly on current and emerging issues.
Darren explained that the participants on the manufacturing side included safety leaders from industry, labour, WorkSafeBC and the BC Forest Safety Council; and that there was equal representation on the harvesting side as well.
In regards to harvesting, the focus is on addressing fatigue, load securement, self-loading truck guarding and phase congestion. On the manufacturing side, the focus is on the Part 12 regulation section review on safeguarding and the conflict between lockout and safeguarding, high risk strategy updates and wood fibre storage.
Darren said the safeguarding technological advancement initiative, undertaken at Conifex, and supported by MAG and WorkSafeBC, had identified conflict within the regulation. The ultimate goal is to enable regulation to be formulated and implemented properly, which requires input, consultation and shared understanding in the early phases of testing and implementation. “There is an opportunity for industry to give input very early on in the process which is very important,” said Darren.
Meetings have been scheduled for the rest of 2018 including planning for the annual forestry summit as well as a part 12 review of regulations re safeguarding.
“We have one goal,” said Darren. “We are not there to lobby for any specific interests. We are there to find ways to achieve safer outcomes that see everyone go home safe.”
Read more about the Wood Products Safety Summit here.
Auditors will examine whether harvesting, roads, bridges, silviculture, fire protection activities and associated planning, carried out from June 1, 2016, to June 8, 2018, met the requirements of the Forest and Range Practices Act and the Wildfire Act.
The audit area is located in the Dawson Creek TSA, in the Peace Natural Resource District, and includes the communities of Dawson Creek, Chetwynd, Tumbler Ridge, Taylor, Hudson’s Hope and Pouce Coupe. The TSA covers about 2.3 million hectares in northeastern B.C., with an allowable annual cut of 1.86 million cubic metres. BCTS’s allocation is 401,106 cubic metres.
This BCTS program was chosen randomly for audit from among all the BCTS programs in the province. The board normally audits two BCTS programs each year.
Once the audit work is completed, a report will be prepared, and any party that may be adversely affected by the audit findings will have a chance to respond. The board’s final report and recommendations will then be released to the public and government.
The Forest Practices Board is B.C.’s independent watchdog for sound forest and range practices, reporting its findings and recommendations directly to the public and government.
The board audits forest and range practices on public lands, and appropriateness of government enforcement. It can also make recommendations for improvement to practices and legislation.
Manufacturing remains an environment with significant risks associated with workplace safety. “At EACOM, we are committed to providing our employees with a safe work environment, to investing in training and prevention, and to nurturing a collective safety culture. We want everyone to return home to their families healthy at the end of each day,” Edgson said. “This spring, we will be walking in our communities with family, friends and co-workers; and we hope many will join us for such an important and worthy cause.”
In April and May, more than 30 communities across the country will host a Steps for Life walk. All proceeds support Threads of Life, a national charitable organization dedicated to helping families to heal after they have been affected by a traumatic workplace fatality, life-altering workplace injury or occupational disease. Threads of Life currently supports more than 2,700 family members from across the country.
“Threads of Life with its trained volunteer family guides is able to continue providing wisdom, guidance and peer support to families suffering from workplace injuries with donations such as these,” Jeff Kiezer, registration lead at Threads of Life said.
“We hope our contribution will help raise community support for families affected by workplace tragedy, but most importantly, raise awareness about the need for safety to eliminate life-altering workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths,” Edgson said.
The public may find information about which cities are holding a Steps for Life walk, sponsor a local team or register by visiting www.stepsforlife.ca.
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TLA Convention & Trade Show
January 16-18, 2019
B.C. Natural Resources Forum
January 22-24, 2019
6th Annual Forest Industry and Timberlands Conference
January 24, 2019
Western Forestry Contractors' Association Conference and Trade Show
January 30-1, 2019