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WorkSafeBC launches process safety initiative


October 26, 2018
By P&PC Staff

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October 26, 2018 – WorkSafeBC, British Columbia’s workplace safety board, has launched a new process safety initiative geared toward a number of process industries including the pulp and paper sector. 

The initiative is designed to prevent low-frequency, high-consequence events such as catastrophic fires, explosions, chemical releases, and structural collapses. Process safety is a form of risk assessment that aims to identify any significant hazards and threats at a worksite and implement critical controls to mitigate any harm.

The initiative is focused on employers in chemical manufacturing and processing, oil and gas, and wood products manufacturing, which encompasses the pulp and paper, biomass, wood pellet, medium-density fibreboard and oriented-strand-board manufacturing industries.

The multi-disciplinary WorkSafeBC team is comprised of prevention officers and managers, engineers, risk analysts and human factors specialists. The initiative began in early 2018 and over the course of the year, the WorkSafeBC team will engage with at least 50 employers across British Columbia. The team provides information to employers and workers, partners with other regulators to develop process safety risk mitigation, and conducts on-site inspections.

In the pulp and paper sector for instance, the risk of chlorine dioxide is present, and the team is working with employers to assess the risk and evaluate their critical control measures.

“We are looking at the types of hazards and the risks they pose that are specific to each employer, and how they are managing and controlling those risks,” says Gordon Harkness, manager, risk analysis unit. “We want employers to manage the risks that are created through their processes.” 

Two information sessions for employers have been held in 2018 – one in Prince George and one in Richmond; a third session organized in co-ordination with the Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC is scheduled to take place in November in Richmond, B.C.

“We see process safety as the next logical step in the journey that we’ve been working on with health and safety in the province,” says Budd Phillips, manager, prevention field services. “We’re now going beyond the idea of what is hurting you today — the day-to-day occupational hazards and exposure issues — and into the catastrophic potential of different industrial processes.” 

When process safety fails, the result can affect large numbers of workers, and potentially the public, often with consequences such as serious injury or loss of life. As an example, WorkSafeBC cites the process safety incident of an ammonia-nitrate explosion that occurred at the West Fertilizer Company facility in West, Texas, in 2013. The incident resulted in the death of 15 people and injured more than 200 others.

“Ultimately, this is about reducing the risk of a catastrophic event and keeping workers and the public safe from harm,” says Phillips.