Pulp and Paper Canada

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Editorial: Changing your safety culture

May 6, 2019  By Kristina Urquhart

May 6, 2019 – When I asked the participants of our annual Safest Mills in Canada contest what safety means to their pulp and paper organization, I received a number of encouraging comments.

I thought this one from Sonoco Canada was particularly astute: “Safety means we all go home to our loved ones in the same way we leave them for work each day.”

It’s as simple as that. Getting the 54,000-plus workers in the Canadian pulp and paper sector home safely every day should come before all else. In an industry that uses a lot of heavy equipment where workplace hazards are a daily risk, sticking to that mantra can be challenging.


Safety has been a cornerstone of this industry for decades. (Our Safest Mills contest has been running for 93 years!). The “safety first” concept came up in numerous responses to my aforementioned question. But what is the difference between saying “safety first” and actually epitomizing it?

At the PaperWeek Canada conference in Montreal this past February, several speakers suggested how to pivot from being an organization merely concerned about safety to one that lives and breathes a safety culture.

That mentality extends across your entire organization, no matter if an employee is in a permanent role or a contract position. In her presentation, Anne-Marie Tétreault, senior expert for HSSEQ compliance and risk management at Cognibox, outlined how to extend your safety culture to contractors. She covers some of these steps in a follow-up article on the topic in our new issue.

Adam Hatt and Ron Guitard, co-chairs of the joint health and safety committee (JHSC) at J.D. Irving’s Lake Utopia Paper, shared how last year, they implemented a safety program at the mill, designed to get employees engaged. At a centrally located whiteboard, employees can file “Hazard IDs” reporting areas of concern or hazardous incidents. Also on the whiteboard is a tracking tool for employees to see how many days have passed without a safety incident.

As part of the Hazard ID program, employees were also trained on hazard recognition assessment, and are encouraged to take two minutes prior to a task to evaluate potential hazards and fill out a last-minute task assessment form.

The program has increased communication, given management deeper insight on the types of incidents recorded at the mill, and allowed for a consistent follow-up procedure accessible to all employees. Since beginning the Hazard ID program in the third period 2018, Lake Utopia Paper employees have identified 2,106 total hazards through 550 Hazard IDs, 1,196 pre-job safety audits and 360 JHSC audit hazards. The recordable incident rate dropped from six to one.

Hatt and Guitard say the program has created a proactive safety culture that gives employees a sense of ownership over themselves – and each other. Making sure everyone gets home safely at the end of each day is a team effort.


This article originally appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of Pulp & Paper Canada.

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