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Did Combustible Sawdust Cause Deadly Blast at Canadian Sawmill?

EMSL Analytical offers testing solutions to help prevent injuries and destruction caused by combustible dust fires and explosions.


Today, CNN reported about a sawmill explosion in Prince George, British Columbia.  The blast was felt by area residents, one of whom reported it felt like an earthquake.  One person has been killed and 23 others were injured.
The exact cause of the explosion and subsequent fire is at this point unknown.  One potential cause being considered is the possibility of the explosion resulting from combustible sawdust igniting.  Wood dust is a known combustible dust hazard.
According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), “In addition to the health effects of wood dust, airborne dust can create the potential for a dust explosion.”  The agency goes on to state, “Wood dust can cause a location to be classified as Class II or Class III.” 
A Class II location, listed by the National Electrical Code (NEC), are those areas made hazardous by the presence of combustible dust.  Class III hazardous locations, according to the NEC, are areas where there are easily-ignitable fibers or flyings present, due to the types of materials being handled, stored, or processed. The fibers and flyings are not likely to be suspended in the air, but can collect around machinery or on lighting fixtures and where heat, a spark or hot metal can ignite them.
“Wood dust is a common product and byproduct of many manufacturing processes,” reported Joe Frasca, Senior Vice President, Marketing at EMSL Analytical, Inc., a leading combustible dust testing laboratory.  “Wood dust is easily ignited when it becomes airborne and is exposed to an ignition source.  Overheated motors, electrical sparks and malfunctioning equipment can all provide an ignition source which can quickly lead to fatal explosions and devastating fires.”
Just this week EMSL sponsored an educational online video about combustible dust hazards.  It can be seen at:
To learn more about combustible dust testing services or industrial hygiene and health and safety issues related to exposure to wood dusts, please visit, call (800)220-3675 or email
About EMSL Analytical, Inc.
EMSL Analytical is a nationally recognized and locally focused provider of environmental and materials testing services and products to professionals and the general public.  The company has an extensive list of accreditations from leading organizations as well as state and federal regulating bodies. 


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