The Pinnacle Pellet plant in Williams Lake was recognized this week with the company’s first-ever safety award, acknowledging the plant’s zero medical incident rate for 2011, its highest scored card on monthly audits, as well as the staff’s proactive approach to safety.
“A recordable medical incident would be anything that you would record to restrict what someone’s able to do within their job,” says Leroy Reitsma, Pinnacle’s president and chief operating officer.
“In Williams Lake last year they had a flawless record,” Reitsma says, adding that measuring the level of pro-activity seen within the plant, not just in management, but in the employees of pursuing excellence, is also key.
Internal audits take place monthly to ensure safety is intact, and then an outside body — the Forest Safety Council — does an audit once a year.
It was a combination of those two scores that was used to determine which plant should receive the award.
“What we’re trying to recognize here in Williams Lake is not only the achievement last year, but the degree to which the culture of this facility has transformed over the last year to one of real pride in what they do. The housekeeping and overall appearance of the plant has been a focus of the workforce here and they’ve done a great job,” Reitsma explains.
Pinnacle is now 24 years old and over the last five years has made some big advancements in safety.
The award, Reitsma says, is one more way to continually reinforce and create attention in respect to safety.
A key thing, he suggests, is that people are at a level of awareness of what could be the potential of risks and they are being mindful of how to ensure that risks are mitigated.
“When you’re trying to create a culture that does that, the more things that we do as employees of this company to try and encourage each other to always stay at a high level of awareness, the more success we’re going to have in ensuring the safety of everyone.”
Reitsma notes the achievements in Williams Lake have not been because they’ve been mandated, but due to a grass-roots effort to pay attention to detail.
Corporate safety and environmental officer Lorne Davies was hired a month and half after there was a fatality at the plant in Williams Lake in 2008. The two had worked at CANFOR previously and put their heads together to look at ways to increase safety measures within the organization.
Davies is responsible for all of the company’s six plants and is travelling back and forth visiting them regularly.
“I’ve seen a complete buy-in rather than a case where people have to do this,” says Davies, adding it really is a game of inches.
“You can’t just wave a wand and everything changes today or tomorrow. Over a point of couple of years you make changes.”
Safety in the workplace is multifaceted and Reitsma suggests while it’s easy to say safety is number one, it’s the level of awareness and people understanding it’s not OK to take risks. Measurements are laid out, but they have to be followed through.
From what he’s seen across the board, he feels there’s a level of accountability among the employees wanting everyone to be safe.
“We back that up by doing the audits. If someone’s choosing not to follow the company plan then they know right away that’s not acceptable,” Davies says.
Pinnacle has also been steadily growing. In 2004, the company produced 60,000 tonnes of pellets.
In 2012, the company will produce 1.25 million tonnes, making it 20 times the size it was when it first started.
“You look at the number of employees we have, the level of professionalism that goes into running an organization like this, and we realized we needed to improve safety measures,” Reitsma says.