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‘It was horrendous’: Quotes from workers attest to safety risks at ill-fated B.C. sawmill

Smoke rises from the Babine Forest Products sawmill in Burns Lake, B.C., on Jan. 22, 2012.

Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

The 2012 explosion at a Burns Lake, B.C., sawmill that killed two workers and wounded 20 others was a "preventable incident" according to a detailed report released Thursday by WorkSafeBC.

Read the Globe's latest story on the report here.

A section of the report quoting workers and supervisors sheds light on the conditions:

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"The dust in the mill was bad. … When we're running [dust was] in the air, and then it would settle in the basement … the dust was worse down there."

"We have an undersized baghouse."

"Lots of complaints about dust."

"[Bugwood is] a totally different dust than any sawmill dust that I've ever seen … almost looks like a dirt dust."

"The dust [piles] on top of those [disconnect] boxes themselves were probably eight inches deep."

"Those [sawdust] piles [were] just way over my head."

"But the bugwood would create the worst [air]. Sometimes you couldn't see across [the mill floor]."

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"You'd have to go into sawdust piles four feet high to go work on something. And you're working in these sawdust piles."

"There were … mountains of broken debris and sawdust everywhere."

"The basement's a different story, it was horrendous."

"You could always see a dusty haze through the whole mill."

"[The sawdust was] really fine. … The stuff … flies around and it gets up there."

"There was a lot of dust in there. … Sometimes we could barely see [across the mill]."

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"[The sawdust build-up was] everywhere on beams, handrails, stairs, the floor even."

"All around these debarkers … were the hardest to [walk] around, because there's just so much waste. … In the basement … there's piles over here. Piles over there. … All around here was piles of waste."

From WorkSafeBC's Babine Forest Products Incident Investigation Report, found here.

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