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WorkSafeBC investigating Quesnel mill explosion

WorkSafeBC has taken over the investigation into last night’s mill explosion and fire in Quesnel.

The organizations says they were notified of the blast immediately and dispatched two field staff from Prince George who arrived two hours later at 7:30pm. WorkSafeBC took full control of the site at 8:10am today.

“It’s very fortunate that there were no injuries in this explosion and fire, and our support goes out to the community. But there was none the less, an explosion and a fire that could have had more drastic results.” WorkSafeBC Vice President of Prevention Field Services Al Johnson said

Johnson tell us that WorkSafeBC has made “ten or so” inspections of the MDF plant since 2012, noting that they launched a combustible dust inspection strategy in the Spring of 2012 following the Babine Forest Products and Lakeland Mills disasters.

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The last visit to the site came in May of 2015, when investigators were following up on a reported small fire in one of the mills cyclones. WorkSafeBC attended to make sure the mill carried out a thorough investigation into the fire. There were no orders or citation issued as a result of that visit.

The last full site combustible dust inspection took place “mid 2014”.

“They had a well articulated and well managed combustible dust program.” Johnson said “But the officer felt that they could be doing inspections more thoroughly. So an order was written on inspections in general.”

However the mill appealed that order and had it reviewed. It was eventually overturned.

“At the review division here at WorkSafeBC, they determined that the employer was being diligent and they were doing inspections to meet the intent of their combustible dust program.” Johnson said

Johnson says it is still far too early to determine the cause of the blast and ensuing fire, but committed to keeping industry informed as needed.

West Fraser has issued a statement this morning saying the “mill will not be operational for a period of time”. The facility employs close to 100 people.

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