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October 27, 2017 11:50 pm

WorkSafe Probing West Pine Fire

Thursday, March 10, 2016 @ 2:27 PM

Quesnel, B.C.-  WorkSafe BC is now in control of the  scene at the West Pine mdf plant in Quesnel which was the scene of an explosion and fire  on Wednesday night.

Fortunately, there were no injuries and the focus is now on finding the source of the blast.

Two  WorkSafe investigators and two field prevention officers have been on scene since 8 this morning, trying to determine the cause of the blast and fire  which has caused extensive damage to the facility.

The West  Pine  MDF facility has been inspected by  WorkSafe  ten times since 2012, “There have been a number of consultations  where  our officers have dealt with  various issues in the plant” says WorkSafe’s Vice President Field Prevention, Al Johnson “It is a facility  we are familiar with.”

Although it is believed the explosion and  fire  happened  in  what is referred to as the “fibre bin”  area of the plant   which has four bag houses,  Johnson says  it  is too early to say if combustible  dust was the source of  last night’s explosion “There is dust in those bag houses,  so dust may have indeed fueled this  but we don’t know (for certain) at this time and haven’t drawn any conclusions in that regard.”   Because this was an MDF plant, there are other factors  to consider such as the high temperatures, high pressure and chemicals used to produce  the medium density fibreboard.   But  the plant has had  a combustible  dust  explosion in the  past.

In mid 2011 there was  an incident at the facility  which  involved wood dust when there was an explosion and fire  within the  dust conveyance system .   There were no injuries,  but the incident was referenced  during the inquest into the fatal Babine and Lakeland  explosions  and fires. “It was a contained  incident, and  it wasn’t the same as what occurred at Babine or Lakeland  on  an open  production floor area” says Johnson.

He says  an order  was written  to West Fraser in 2014  “We saw that their combustible dust program was  generally well  founded and working well, but the officer  who was  doing the inspection at the time, felt that they could do  more around inspections of wood  dust, and that those  inspections could be even  more thorough  than what they were doing.”   The company contested that order,  and the order was reviewed and subsequently rescinded.

At the end of 2014,  with only two MDF plants operating in the Province  and both  operating within compliance,   the focus shifted to pellet plants,  as only 40% of the pellet plants in the province  were in compliance. “So we haven’t done a  true inspection (of West Pine) since mid 2014, but we were involved in a fire that occurred in May of  2015.  We attended the scene,  it was a small fire that  occurred in one of their cyclones.  The employer did an appropriate investigation, we reviewed that investigation  and again, it met all of our tests, and it was in compliance with all of our regulations.”

Johnson says there is no way to know how long it will take to  determine the cause of the blast  “We  will be on scene as long as it takes”   He says  the team will be gathering evidence  and  conducting interviews “So we can get a better understanding, along  with the employer, again with the focus of  preventing something  like this from happening again.”







It is a given that there would be dust laden air in the piping leading to the baghouse and the baghouse itself if the plant was running at the time, That is it’s purpose, to extract dust laden air from the plant clean it and return it to the building or vent it to atmosphere.

I would suspect that the piping has spark detecting fire eyes and water injection nozzles that will come on if a spark is detected. These are used in conjunction with an abort gate that will direct the material to a contained area that is open to the air to prevent the wet and possibly smoldering dust from reaching the baghouse.

As a last line of defense the baghouse is equipped with explosion panels that will prevent a catastrophic dust explosion along with sprinkler heads that help contain any fire.

Why a spark got all the way to the baghouse could be as simply as a something sticking to the lens of the fire eye for a moment or a chuck of crud being knocked loose when the abort gate slammed shut preventing it from closing tight.

At the end of the day hope it is up and running again soon as Quesnel has had enough bad news for a while.

He says an order was written to West Fraser in 2014 “We saw that their combustible dust program was generally well founded and working well, but the officer who was doing the inspection at the time, felt that they could do more around inspections of wood dust, and that those inspections could be even more thorough than what they were doing.” The company contested that order, and the order was reviewed and subsequently rescinded.

So the company contested the order and look where it got them.

    Do you have any proof or inside information that the two are in any related in any way or are you just jumping to conclusions? They could be on talking about different ends of the plant, I spent half a day there a few years ago and it is a good sized building.

    After the sawmill explosions I doubt worksafe would rescind any orders related to dust unless they were absolutely sure.

    The air moves through these closed systems at a petty good clip, some 60mph if memory serves. A small piece of metal getting loose around a bearing or a sanding drum can send a shower of sparks towards the baghouse.
    A vented to air cyclone would have less risk of fire but I don’t think the residents of Quesnel would like the extremely fine dust the cyclone cannot catch.

Facts are facts and in the end the inspector was over ruled which is bull shit. He or she is on the ground and eyes on the issue. So to remove the order is just plain crap. Political pressure rules and that’s were the change has to happen. This is the fourth explosion in 12 years at the plant although this one is the biggest, so people have to be killed before something happens have we not learned anything from the past.

Yes there are many causes but if you keep the place free of dust and have a propery maintained bag house you will lessen the chance of an explosion. It does not have to be metal rubbing something to cause an explosion. When air is moving at a high speed through pipes static electricity can cause the explosion. All I am trying to say Work Safe better get some teeth to deal with these issues or you will have more loss of life. Take the time to look at the Video on You Tube –combustable Dust ;an insidious hazard. This video is from CSB.

seen it and agree, worksafe better get off their ass and start preforming as they should and not bending to employers pressure. This crap about making sure it never happens again is warring very,very thin.

so what if, and hear me out on this, mills just did better clean up?

I cannot speak to this fire or this mill, but know at other mills in the area, the company is always given a head’s up before WorkSafeBC visits the worksite.

Sometimes it is only a few hours notice, sometimes it is a week’s notice. Often times a production shift is cancelled and mandatory cleanup becomes the focus for an entire shift.

Sure doesn’t make the employees feel that their day to day safety is a concern – passing inspections is all that matters.

Non-union sawmill, so the employees and their families are relying on WorkSafeBC for their safety.

    I have never seen a Joint Health and Safety Committee in a union plant that did not first function as a pawn of the Plant Committee.

When you have a government that thinks they know everything what can you expect. When government will not even abide by the court rulings it pretty well says it all. WorkSafe in my opinion is being totally controlled in what is being said and done in this province. Its time to let WorkSafe do its job and the government keep their nose out of it because they certainly are not WORLD CLASS.

A friend’s uncle has a roommate a who used to work with a guy that married a girl that worked for a delivery company that drove by the mill once and she said there was dust everywhere.

At least we know the omnipresent 250 posters don’t limit their speculations to car accidents. ☺

I like your response interceptor, well said.

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