New Brunswick

Inquest into death at pellet plant hears of inexperience, inadequate supervision

A coroner’s inquest into the death of teenager Wanny Pelletier at a Saint-Quentin wood pellet plant has resulted in three recommendations for improved safety.

Coroner calls for hazard alert awareness campaign for lumber-processing industry

A coroner's inquest heard that misuse of equipment and inadequate communication, supervision and experience all contributed to the death of Wanny Pelletier, 17. (Radio-Canada)

A coroner's inquest into the death of teenager Wanny Pelletier at a Saint-Quentin wood pellet plant has resulted in three recommendations for improved safety.

Presiding coroner Steve Gibson and five jurors heard testimony Monday and Tuesday about the circumstances under which Pelletier, 17, was fatally injured in December 2016.

Pelletier was cleaning the Groupe Savoie plant when he got his leg stuck under a conveyor. It took two hours to free him and he died four days later in hospital of his injuries.

Éric Brideau of WorkSafeNB said investigators identified several problems at the pellet mill that contributed to the death of Wanny Pelletier. (Serge Bouchard/Radio-Canada)

The inquest heard that the conveyor had broken two times in the days preceding the accident. After the second repair job, a safety device had not been reinstalled.

The equipment was not used as the manufacturer had designed it, said Éric Brideau, assistant director of investigations at WorkSafeNB.

Other factors contributing to the death were a lack of communication, inadequate supervision and inexperience, the inquest heard.

Presiding coroner Steve Gibson said he was pleased with the work of jurors and thought the public would be satisfied with their recommendations and with safety improvements made by the company. (Serge Bouchard/Radio-Canada)

Company officials said they made several safety improvements following Pelletier's death. 

The jury deliberated for less than an hour Tuesday afternoon before coming back with the following recommendations:

  • Orientation at the workstation should be done on the same shift by the same supervisor.

  • If a supervisor or controller is away from his or her workstation, an alternative employee should be in the control room until he or she returns.

In addition, Gibson has recommended:

  • WorkSafeNB implement an awareness campaign for the lumber-processing industry regarding potential hazards.

Wood pellets move along a conveyor. (Radio-Canada)

Inquests are mandatory for workplace deaths in forestry.

The Department of Public safety said the chief coroner will forward these recommendations to the appropriate government departments and agencies for consideration and response, and the responses will be included in the chief coroner's annual report for 2019.

With files from Serge Bouchard, Radio-Canada