Canadian Biomass Magazine

Opinion: Safer pellet plants by working together

August 4, 2023
By Gordon Murray

WorkSafeBC site visit builds on long history of collaboration, writes Wood Pellet Association of Canada executive director, Gordon Murray.

Left to right: Ian Tencarre, plant manager, Drax; Jason Stockall, HSE director northern operations, Drax; Todd McDonald, head of prevention, WorkSafeBC; Fahimeh Yazdan Panah, director of research and technical development, WPAC; Gordon Murray, executive director, WPAC; Mike Tasker, occupational safety officer, WorkSafeBC, Steve Mueller, manager, prevention field services, WorkSafeBC; Liezl van Wyk, VP northern operations, Drax; David Brideau, mobile equipment manager, Drax. Missing from photo: Tony Kim, GM northern operations, Drax, who took the photo.

The Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC) and one of its members, Drax Group, recently had the pleasure of touring Todd McDonald, WorkSafeBC’s (WSBC) new head of prevention services, around Drax’s Williams Lake pellet plant.

One of the goals of WSBC is to foster the improvement of occupational health and safety in workplaces and communities and one of the ways they do that is by partnering with employers and workers in B.C. Todd’s recent visit on July 25 was an example of just that and an opportunity for our sector to highlight our commitment to safety, continuous improvement and strong partnerships.

Todd took on the role in December 2022 and has been a member of WSBC’s executive team for many years, most recently in the role of chief planning officer. This was Todd’s first visit to a pellet plant. He was accompanied by his colleagues Steve Mueller, manager, prevention field services, and Mike Tasker, occupational safety officer. Plant manager Ian Tencarre led the tour.

WPAC and its members have a long history of working together to make the industry safer. Our collaboration has led to identifying and exploring new ways to improve safety and implementing those learnings along the way. WSBC has provided funding, input and guidance over the years to our association, safety committee and to the plants. This has resulted in positive changes to WPAC safety culture – something Mike said he has observed over the past nine years.


I was impressed by Todd’s interest in ensuring an optimum balance between experienced and new workers, and that new workers would be adequately trained and mentored. The tour was also an opportunity for Drax to demonstrate their commitment to implementing process safety and to ensuring a highly trained stable and experienced team.

During the tour, we reflected on some of our major achievements such as critical control management implementation, inherently safer design research project and the great work of our belt dryer safety working group. We also brought Todd and his team up to speed on our current initiatives such as the operator training program including the e-learning platform, process safety management implementation and combustible gas bowtie report and roll-out.

We value our relationship with WSBC and their support of our safety initiatives. While we keep them up to date via meetings and communications there’s no replacement for boots on the ground opportunities at the plants to meet the people and see safety in action. A huge thanks to Liezl van Wyk, VP northern operations at Drax, and her team for their support and participation.

Gordon Murray is the executive director of the Wood Pellet Association of Canada.

Print this page


Stories continue below