Mercer Peace River pulp bales in the mill's warehouse

Mercer’s Life-saving Golden Rule No. 6: I never knowingly take safety equipment out of operation or modify it without permission

At Mercer, protecting the health and safety of our team members, contractors, and communities is foundational. We believe that all incidents are preventable and strive for zero harm for all. 

Creating an inherent understanding of safety is not always easy and requires both hard work and dedication. With this in mind, Mercer has established the 9 Life-saving Golden Rules, as part of our Road To Zero safety journey. These 9 basic rules are there to protect our people from high-risk work where failure to comply has the highest potential for serious injury. 

I never knowingly take safety equipment out of operation or modify it without permission is rule number 6, which speaks to the importance of safety equipment and the implications if these safeguards become impaired. 

It’s apparent that an operating environment such as our own has many hazards and requires risk management each day. Because of this, it is imperative that the equipment and processes put in place for our safety remain intact, to act as one barrier of protection. 

Putting this into Perspective

The pulping process has many components, with one major element being the Kiln – a very hot, hazardous piece of equipment that, by way of a cooking process, converts lime mud (calcium carbonate) to lime (calcium oxide). The energy management system for the Kiln is very complex and any modifications or logic changes to the safety system require careful review and authorization by qualified personnel. 

To aid in the management and understanding of our operation our team utilizes various procedures, manuals, and equipment to reduce the risk of workplace hazards. So when we recently experienced a hardwired pressure switch failure on the Kiln, our team, knowing the implications to equipment modifications, turned to our procedure – Bypassing Hardware Safety Switches on the Recovery Boiler/Power Boiler/Kiln. 

Mercer Peace River kiln in the pulp mill

The Kiln in the Mercer Peace River pulp mill


Our versatile and highly skilled team utilized the procedure to thoroughly assess the situation and all of the risks involved. As part of the procedure, the decision to bypass any safety switch must be scrutinized and requires a discussion amongst leadership (Steam Chief, Lead Recovery Boiler Operator, and the Control Room Operator). After a collaborative evaluation, the decision to install a replacement switch on the Kiln was determined, proving to be a successful temporary fix to allow for the safe continuation of production. 

Without the understanding that I never knowingly take safety equipment out of operation or modify it without permission, the outcome of this situation could have fared negatively. The knowledge and experience of our team are key to properly identifying and evaluating risk. In a situation with a high potential for hazard such as this, it is essential that leadership be involved in the process.  

Our Takeaways

The Life-saving Golden Rules come in handy when tackling our everyday tasks and apply universally across the organization no matter the environment. These rules help to ensure that our team members return home safely at the end of the day. This example fits perfectly into why these rules remain so effective – encouraging us to consider safety at all times. As we continue on our Road to Zero journey we know these rules will guide us on the path of safety excellence in the workplace and beyond.