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Dust collection systems installed at Conifex mills in Mackenzie, Fort St. James

The sudden clarity is eye-catching after you wash a dirty window.

Similarly, workers at Conifex Timber Inc's Mackenzie sawmill noticed an immediate and positive improvement in the air quality following the installation of a system designed to contain and extract combustible sawdust.

"Workers reported a new sharpness and brightness in the workplace," recalls Darren Beattie, Conifex's safety director. And a lot less sawdust.

The forest company invested about $12 million in creating a safer working environment between its sawmills in Mackenzie and Fort St. James in north central British Columbia. A Cyclo-filter/ bag house system was installed at each mill, with 2 - 50,000 CFM systems at Mackenzie (about $5 million) and 2- 60,000 CFM units at the larger Fort St. James operation (about $7 million). “Airtek Pneumatics was our main contractor for the design, supply and installation of the two systems.

Baum Pneumatics of Vancouver and Rodrigue Metal Inc., of Quebec supplied the main components. "I believe it was the second such system to be installed in western Canada," says Beattie.

Dust containment and extraction are keys to the system, with fresh air being returned into the mills. The dust is contained at areas in the mill where it tends to accumulate during the log breakdown process, at locations like transfer points, for example, in and outfeeds and at major machine centres like trim saws, explains Beattie.

A Pyro-Guard spark detection system was also installed at each Conifex mill. "Our performance target was to meet all standards and codes,” says Beattie. That includes maintaining dust accumulation levels below one-eighth-of-an-inch over five per cent of the area after a two-shift day.

"We are meeting those standards," Beattie confirms.

As part of the NFPA guide lines, Airtek has trained Conifex staff to maintain the system through regular inspections, cleaning and documentation .

The sawdust extracted in Mackenzie has an end use: it's recycled into Conifex's power plant. "We're happy with this system and its performance," concludes Beattie. "It's been a good fit for us."