The WPAC Safety Committee has a wide range of ongoing initiatives to keep people safe.
Operator Safety Training for pellet manufacturers has officially risen to the next level. Working together with the BC Forest Safety Council, we have launched an industry-wide initiative to deliver a free, comprehensive, digital e-learning safety training program for plant operators and supervisors.
Designed to ensure the safe operation of pellet manufacturing facilities, the content for this state-of-the-art learning platform was developed with senior plant operators and subject matter experts from British Columbia and Nova Scotia, focusing on combustible dust, human factors, hazard analysis, process safety management, upset conditions and plant operation.
The collaboration resulted in the online platform, which includes videos, industry resources, and built-in knowledge assessments for plant operators and supervisors. Funding was provided by WorkSafe BC.
While the platform was designed for pellet plants, the training modules are available to the broader wood products sector and other industries that handle combustible dust, such as chemical products, and food and beverage processing.
Visit: wpaclearning.com to get started.
Read fact sheet: Online Interactive Operator Safety Training Factsheet
ISD focuses on elimination of hazards and treatment of hazards at the source, rather than relying on only add-on equipment and procedures. ISD is based on four principles: minimization, substitution, moderation, and simplification.
Around the world, process safety management (PSM) is becoming central to worker safety and managing risk. PSM implementation protects personnel, equipment, and production uptime, and is associated with lower maintenance cost, insurance, and capital.
The industry will implement PSM through a strategic long-term plan, using the CSA Z767 Process Safety Management standard as the framework. It is anticipated the initiative will be a core focus of the WPAC Safety Committee Workplan for the next 5-7 years.
WPAC, BC Forest Safety Council (BCFSC), and Dalhousie University partnered on an initiative to improve pellet industry practices regarding equipment isolation with an eye on minimizing the impact of potential combustible dust fires, explosions and deflagrations within wood pellet plants.
WPAC and the BC Forest Safety Council (BCFSC) have released a new report that summarizes the key actions plant operators can take to manage the risk of combustible gas in drum dryers.
Despite significant safety advancements in the pellet industry, the potential remains for pellet plants to experience major unwanted events (MUEs) such as explosions, fires, and fatal accidents that are hard to prevent with traditional approaches to safety.
When fibre is stored in piles, self-heating, and combustion can occur over time. The smouldering can continue for months, and can produce caverns that collapse when weight is put on the pile. These gaps are like a furnace and can reach extreme temperatures.
The Biomass and Bioenergy Research Group (BBRG) is a world-class research group of engineers and scientists based at the University of British Columbia. This fact sheet provides the latest information based on the centre’s research related to best practices on the safe handling and storage of pellets, part of a four-year research project involving WPAC, the BC Forest Safety Council, and BioFuelNet Canada, and funded through the federal Canadian Agricultural Partnership.
You can read more about this ground breaking work in an interview with Canadian Biomass Magazine and Dr. Shahab Sokhansanj who led this work.
Read fact sheet: Fibre Pile Management for Pellet Plants
As belt dryers have become more common, the pellet industry has experienced several safety incidents over the past few years.
The Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC), in co-operation with the BC Forest Safety Council, WorkSafeBC, and media partner Canadian Biomass, held the Belt Dryer Symposium on Nov. 25, 2020. The purpose of the Belt Dryer Safety Symposium was to share the learnings from these incidents and for individual operators to share in-house safe operating procedures with their industry colleagues. You can read more about the symposium and key learnings here.
The Working Group released its final report on belt dryer safety in 2022, after more than 50 meetings in 2021. You can be read the brief report and the one-page fact sheet for operators here.
Key recommendations include:
- removing infeed contaminants and resisting the urge to ensure clean feedstock enters dryers
- using indirect-heated belt dryers instead of direct-heated belt dryers
- applying additional controls besides the ones provided by the dryer manufacturers, such as spark detection and suppression in the burner channel, below belt internal deluge, Infra-Red (IR) thermal detection above and below belts, and controlling contaminants from entering the burner
- employing the bow tie analysis approach to review and update safety procedures, looking for any missing steps
Anyone seeking more information or interested in joining the working group should contact Fahimeh Yazdan Panah, WPAC’s director of research and technical development:
Read report and fact sheet: Safer Operation of Direct-Heated Belt Dryers
Read Canadian Biomass Magazine article: Key Takeaways From WPAC’s Belt-dryer Symposium
Combustible wood dust in confined storage could present a risk of fire and explosion if it’s not managed effectively. The Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC) has developed tools to improve safety and lower the risk when working around wood fibre storage.
In 2017, WPAC’s Safety Committee, in collaboration with the BC Forest Safety Council (BCFSC), the Manufacturing Advisory Group and WorkSafeBC, established a Working Group to lead the process on developing best practices for combustible dust management in wood fibre storage. This collaboration resulted in the formation of the Wood Fibre Storage Working Group (WFSWG), with the overall objective of improving safety within the wood manufacturing sector by eliminating injuries and fatalities.
The objectives were to:
- Assist employers in understanding and assessing the hazards of storing and handling wood fibre in areas intended for storage and infeed processes.
- Provide guidance on developing and implementing risk mitigation strategies and preferred operating practices, including training of workers and supervisors.
- Provide direction on potential audit elements or standards for fibre storage to be incorporated into the WPAC/BCFSC Combustible Dust Audit.
- Consult with WorkSafeBC on inspection and compliance requirements related to the storage of wood fibre in buildings and structures intended for that purpose.
After consulting with WorkSafeBC and following their recommendations for industry programs on combustible wood dust inspection and management, the working group developed guidelines for the management of both wood fibre storage and combustible dust, which includes documents on risks and mitigation and gap analysis, as well as a safety bulletin.
The risk and mitigation document lists the potential ignition sources and highlights best mitigation options when working in and around wood fibre, with a focus on storage buildings/ structures, mobile equipment, luminaries, electrical distribution equipment, conveyors, and bins.
The gap analysis tool was developed to help employers assess the potential hazards, identify gaps in their safety management system and implement control measures to mitigate risk. It includes a list of 12 components for safety management system requirements for storage infrastructure, storage building luminaries, electrical distribution equipment, infeed process, fibre delivery/acquisition, mobile equipment and inspections, and cleaning and maintenance. It also provides such requirements for safety management: roles and responsibilities, documentation— identification and maintenance of applicable regulations, training, awareness and competence, emergency preparedness and response, performance measurement, management review, and communications.
Finally, the safety bulletin covers the main considerations in fire prevention and best practices when managing wood fibre with mobile equipment to ensure the risk of fire or deflagration is effectively addressed:
- It is critical to ensure properly trained personnel operate mobile equipment.
- All mobile equipment should be inspected and cleaned regularly.
- Ensure automatic extinguishing systems are installed on engine and hydraulic components. It is recommended to inspect the general condition of the extinguishing system at least weekly; inspect the dry chemical for free flow capability at least monthly; and establish a quarterly maintenance program that includes checking for free movement of the actuator mechanism.
- To reduce the risk of sparks and fire, protected wiring, air operated starting and enclosed batteries are highly recommended.
- Water cooled manifold and muffler are strongly recommended to bring down the surface temperature and thus reduce fire risk.
- Mobile equipment should never be left unattended or parked in storage areas.
- Reversing engine fan can help minimizing wood dust/fibre accumulation within the engine compartment.
- It is recommended to have additional extinguishers available on the mobile equipment and within the storage area.
- Coating or insulation on turbos are recommended to reduce surface temperatures and thus the risk of fire.
- Interlocks on hydraulic systems are recommended as they allow the flow of hydraulic fluid to be stopped effectively in the event of a leak and thus reduce the risk of fire.
For more information, contact:
Fahimeh Yazdan Panah
Tel: (778) 990 -2656
View presentation: Confined Spaces Entry Program Management
Utilize risk assessment and permit: Confined Space Baler Cross Collection Vault Confined Space
- WorkSafeBC Occupational Health and Safety Regulation: Part 09 Confined Spaces
- WorkSafeBC Occupational Health and Safety: Guidelines Part 09
- Confined Space Entry Program: A Reference Manual
Canadian Centre for Occupation Health and Safety
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Confined Space – Introduction
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, Confined Space – Program
United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA)
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