Harmac cranking out pulp used to make surgical masks, gowns

Harmac has received double order for pulp used in medical supplies

The Harmac Pacific pulp mill in Nanaimo employs more than 300 people. | Submitted

While many businesses in B.C. are shutting down or cutting back, the Harmac Pacific pulp mill in Nanaimo is one of the few to actually see a benefit from the COVID-19 crisis.

Harmac produces a type of pulp, K10S, that is used to make disposal surgical masks, hospital gowns, and other supplies used in hospitals.There is now a serious supply shortage of those product worldwide, particularly for masks, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

An American manufacture of these products just recently doubled its order.

“We’ve been making this product for years now,” said Harmac president Levi Sampson. “This week we have increased our volume that will be going to the customers that make surgical gowns, masks and medical supplies. We did receive a doubling of an order to a customer for that.

“That’s the reason why we’ve made the decision to run right now. We’re contributing to making a product that is going to the front lines, so we thought right now we should do our best to stay up and running.

“You hear stories of doctors and nurses saying they are running out of supplies…so anything we can do to help on that front we’re trying to do.”

It’s not clear whether any of those supplies will ultimately make it into the Canadian supply chain.

“Although I don’t know all the places where they’re shipping their supplies to, everywhere needs medical supplies right now,” Sampson said. “As much supply as you can have in the pipeline right now, it’s helpful.”

Harmac employees 320 people full-time. Those that can work from home are doing so.

As for concerns about social distancing in the workplace, Sampson said the Harmac pulp mill is so vast, that employees can keep a safe distance.

“These are giant facilities,” he said. “We are really able to spread out our workforce. Everybody has been able to really keep a large amount of distance while still being able to do their job safely.

“We have people going around constantly sanitizing work stations, bathrooms, those sorts of things.”