B.C. sawmill towns on edge over dust buildup that's suspect in two explosions

The Canadian Press
April 26, 2012

VANCOUVER - Anxiety is building in B.C. forestry towns over the bone-dry dust of pine beetle-killed wood that's been piling up in hard-to-reach corners of sawmills.

After two fatal explosions since January, mill workers say they've noticed an increase in the particles floating in the air in recent years, attributing it to a heavier reliance on dead trees that are in part harvested to mitigate forest fire risks.

Union official Dean Colville, who worked for Tolko Industries in Williams Lake for seven years, says there's a lot of fear in mills and workers are wondering if they could be next.

He says workers don't believe that two disasters in such a short time span can be a fluke and until new safety procedures are implemented across the province, the worry will remain.

WorkSafe BC has officially ordered all B.C. sawmill employers to conduct a thorough inspection of their facilities and develop a dust control program by May 9 or face possible sanctions.

Two men died in the fiery blasts at the Lakeland sawmill in Prince George on Monday, while another two perished when Babine Forest Products in Burns Lake burned down in mid-January.