Safety violations at Lavington mill

Two inspection reports issued by Work Safe BC (WSBC) in 2012 suggest that managers at Tolko were made aware of insufficient guarding and conveyor safety concerns at the company’s planer mill operation in Lavington.

Manager of Tolko’s Southern Interior Lumber division, Rob Fraser, agrees that Tolko was aware of concerns and says they complied with any WSBC orders in a timely manner.

A WSBC report dated May 2012 lists multiple safety concerns in relation to guarding around moving equipment and conveyors.

Occupational safety officer Kevin Birnie states, “I observed a number of guards on operating equipment that do not meet the requirements of the [Canadian Standards Association].”

Although Birnie outlined a few specific examples in his report, he did not indicate the concerns were limited to a particular area of the jobsite.

Accordingly, Birnie’s report goes on to advise a site-wide solution.  

“It would be prudent of the employer to conduct a guarding assessment and inventory all guards that do not currently meet the requirements and develop a compliance plan to ensure all guards are compliant,” said Birnie.

Fraser says the Lavington mill has been in the process of implementing WSBC’s recommendations.

“They suggested we look at everything at the plant in terms of guarding, and that has been underway. We conducted an inventory and have been engaged in a process of prioritization. Much of it is complete,” said Fraser.

WSBC issued a follow up inspection report in June indicating that Tolko had complied with the orders.

In the report, Birnie states, “This is an ongoing process of identifying and upgrading guarding throughout the facility, however all guards identified during the onsite inspection have been adequately addressed and compliance has been met.”

Another WSBC report dated November 2012 identifies safety problems in the Lavington operation’s basement, at an access ramp leading to a waste conveyor.

“The conveyor does not have an emergency stopping system, and worker access to the conveyor is not prevented by guarding,” Birnie stated in the November order.

Both Fraser and WSBC say that Tolko complied with the order by installing an emergency stop.

“There’s been a good response to any concerns,” said Fraser.

Less than seven months after the November report, 18-year-old Bradley Haslam lost his life after becoming entangled in a conveyor belt while working at the Lavington planer mill on June 15, 2013.

A third WSBC inspection report, which was issued following the tragedy, does not state how Haslam was fatally injured.

WSBC investigator Willi Moore noted several conveyor safety violations, however, in the ‘No. 3 Chipper area’ where the accident took place.  

“The high sky waste conveyor and the board edge out feed conveyor were not guarded at the in-running nip points or the guards were not effective to prevent contact to the hazardous areas,” stated Moore.

Moore noted that a common requirement of safeguarding is to physically prevent a worker from reaching around, over, under, and through the guard to the danger area.

“A belt conveyor must have accessible nip points of spools and pulleys guarded to prevent contact by a worker.”

The ‘No. 3 Chipper area’ is described as a large area – Fraser estimated a space of 75 by 125 feet.

“On the day of the incident, [WSBC investigators] spent considerable time in the area. The orders were a result of that,” said Fraser.

Fraser says they are still investigating what happened, and he would not comment as to whether the safety violations were related to Haslam’s death.

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