Combustible dust hazard in wood processing facilities

Safety Order

Safety Order: Combustible dust hazard in wood processing facilities

May 7, 2013

Safety Order

Reference Number:

SO-EL-GA 2013-02

This safety order is also posted in the gas safety order section of this website.

This safety order is issued pursuant to section 31 of the Safety Standards Act. A person affected by this safety order may appeal this order in writing to the Safety Standards Appeal Board within 30 days. The appeal process is set out on the Safety Standards Appeal Board's website at This order may not be stayed during an appeal.

Failure to comply with a safety order is an offence under section 72 of the Safety Standards Act.


This order requires owners and operators of wood processing facilities1 to perform an assessment of facilities for hazardous locations, due to the presence of combustible dust. Where gas or electrical equipment is installed within a hazardous location, a plan to suitably mitigate the combustion risk must be documented.

The presence of combustible dust or fibre may create a hazardous location2. The installation or use of electrical or gas equipment within hazardous locations may require specific precautions to mitigate the risk of combustion. Both electrical equipment and gas equipment are regulated under the Safety Standards Act and Regulations. The standards adopted in those regulations, specifically the BC Electrical Code and the BC Natural Gas and Propane Code, contain requirements for the installation and operation of regulated equipment located in hazardous locations.

As a result of investigation findings collected from explosions and fires at two BC sawmills in 2012, the BC Safety Authority is issuing this Safety Order to help prevent, avoid or reduce the risk of personal injury or damage to property. The BC Safety Authority has previously issued two safety orders (SO-EL 2012-01 Electrical Equipment Located in Sawmills and SO-EL2012- 03 Electrical Equipment Located in Wood Pellet Manufacturing Plants) intended to mitigate the risk posed by combustible wood dust. This safety order provides additional orders for all wood processing facilities and in no way reduces the obligation to operate the facilities in a safe manner consistent with all regulatory requirements and previous orders.

This safety order applies to all wood processing facilities utilizing regulated electrical or gas equipment. Some of the requirements of this safety order only apply to wood processing facilities that have electrical or gas installations of sufficient size to require an operating permit. Details on requirements for operating permits can be found in BC Safety Authority directive

1 Wood processing facilities include all sites that cut, plane or otherwise mill wood, and all sites that handle wood cuttings, shavings, dust, or other wood byproducts. Examples of such facilities are sawmills, planer mills, pellet plants, pulp mills, chip handling facilities, wood products manufacturing plants such as plywood and OSB.

2 BC Electrical Code defines a hazardous location, in part, as “premises, building, or parts there of, in which

combustible dusts are present, or may be present, in the form of clouds or layers in quantities to require special precautions for the construction, installation, and operation of electrical equipment; or combustible fibres or flyings are manufactured, handled, or stored in a manner that will require special precautions for the construction,

installation, and operating of electrical equipment.”

D-E3 070801 7 Electrical Operating Permit Requirements and in bulletin B-G5-0411084 Gas Operating Permit Requirements.

Required actions

  1. Any owner or operator of a wood processing facility that utilizes regulated electrical or gas equipment must take the following actions at any facility under its direction or control as soon as feasible, and in any case, no later than 31st December, 2013:
  1. Conduct an assessment of your wood processing facility to identify combustible dust hazardous locations:
    1. A qualified professional3 shall conduct the assessment to identify combustible dust hazardous locations as defined in the BC Electrical Code
    2. The assessment shall be carried out in accordance with a recognized industry standard for combustible dust hazardous locations (refer to Appendix ‘A’ for guidance on recognized standards); and,
    3. The processes used in the assessment and the results of the assessment shall be documented in the records located at the wood processing facility.
  2. Where combustible dust hazardous locations are identified and contain regulated electrical and/or gas equipment, pre  are a plan, acceptable to a qualified professional, to either:
  1. Configure the equipment for safe operation given the presence of the combustible dust hazard. Safe operating configurations include:
    1. Replacement of equipment with equipment of a type suitable for operation in the identified hazardous location;
    2. Approved modification of the existing equipment to be suitable for operation in the identified hazardous location; or
    3. Permanent removal of the equipment from the identified hazardous location;


  1. Utilize auditable wood dust management practices for these locations as an effective means to manage the combustion hazard.
  1. Record in a suitable facility document any identified combustible dust hazardous locations identified in item 1 and the chosen means to manage the combustion hazards identified in item 2.
  2. Implement periodic re-evaluation and of the hazardous location assessment performed in item 1 and the wood dust management practices in items 2 to determine currency and effectiveness. At a minimum, the re-evaluation and subsequent changes must be done at least once every 5 years, or more frequently if modifications are made to the facility operations or equipment that could impact the hazardous area classification.

3 Qualified professional is defined in Appendix ‘A’


  1. Any owner or operator of a wood processing facility that utilizes regulated electrical or gas equipment and that also requires a permit to operate that equipment will take the following actions at each and any facility under its direction or control:
  1. No later than September 15th, 2013, complete, for each facility, the Safety Order Response Form in Appendix ‘B’ and submit it to the BC Safety Authority. The attached form requires information about the assessment of hazardous locations required under this safety order.
  1. No later than September 15th, 2013, documents referred to in item 3 of this safety order must be available at each facility for audit by the BC Safety Authority.

If you have any questions regarding this safety order, please contact your local electrical safety or gas safety officer through the BC Safety Authority call centre by phone at 1.866.566.7233 or by email at



Stephen Hinde,

Provincial Safety Manager, P. Eng




SBC 2003, c. 39             Safety Standards Act

B.C. Reg. 105/2004        Safety Standards General Regulation

B.C. Reg. 100/2004        Electrical Safety Regulation

B.C. Reg. 103/2004       Gas Safety Regulation

D-E3 070801 7               Electrical Operating Permit Requirements

B-G5-0411084               Gas Operating Permit Requirements


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