From exposure to noxious chemicals and noise hazards to maintenance on large machinery, the dangers present themselves in many phases of the pulping process and present several opportunities for risk.
There is a strong case for building a robust, company-wide commitment to health and safety in every organization. There are financial, business and legal cases to make as well as one of corporate social responsibility. But ultimately it comes down to human life, its inherent value, and the obligation an organization has in keeping that human life safe.
According to the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada, of the 951 occupational health and safety fatalities in 2017, over half (486) were people working in trades and transport or who were equipment operators, and 35 per cent of the fatalities were due to a traumatic injury or disorder. These numbers speak directly to the pulp and paper industry, where many jobs involve operating heavy equipment where there is a very real risk of traumatic injury.
With confirmed risk there becomes a need for safety throughout your organization, and to ensure that all staff are on board.
Getting contractors involved and invested
Managing change and motivating staff is a challenge at the best of times. When your workforce is dispersed and sporadic, as many contractor workforces are, getting them involved and interested in a new initiative can be even trickier.
These workers are not your own employees. Often enough, they do not even work for the contractor you hired, but rather for a subcontractor of your contactor. With so many degrees of separation, it can be difficult to know the competency level of these workers and to share important information with them. How can you effectively influence workers to adopt the same beliefs, values and norms regarding onsite safety – especially with contractors, who are not always immersed your company’s organizational culture?
A culture of safety (or any culture, for that matter) is not built solely by preaching slogans to employees, telling the employees to adopt safety values and calling the job done. Skilled managers build and maintain organizational culture by how they carry out their daily work.
In a contractor-based context, managers should consider doing the following:
- Expand their organization’s OHS policy to explicitly include contractors
- Write a contractor safety management program
- Require that contractors set aside resources needed for safety (and be ready to pay for it in overhead)
- Present to workers in a safety induction training the risks, their applicable life-saving rules and safety programs specific to their facility, complete with a sound verification of their understanding
- Read the safety plans and programs submitted by contractors; if weak, document why, ask for correction, and, if not correctable, conditionally qualify, impose your own programs, monitor closely, or disqualify all together
- Monitor the contractors’ OHS performance by reviewing yearly their injury and illness data, as well as legal infractions
- Ensure job-specific risk analysis for contractor work, complete with specifications of required controls. This may include permits, mandatory work instructions to implement by contractors, worker qualification and personal protective equipment requirements
- Block access to site to workers with no valid evidence of training or qualification required
- Document unsafe contractor or individual workers that have been stopped, help contractors with their root-cause analysis, and apply a predetermined consequence, if applicable
- Inspect, audit, assess. Document, give feedback and the opportunity to improve, then use these for requalification based on real-life results
Mitigating risk with technology
The incorporation of new technologies is effective in applying health and safety principles to contractor management. There are tools to manage contractors at every point in the relationship, from the hiring process to job completion. Not only do these tools make the work quicker and more efficient, but they are also designed to mitigate risk and keep contractors safe as they go about their jobs.
These tools can assess the qualifications of contractors for jobs before the work begins and identify and manage training for contractors who might need it, ensuring that you and your contractors are set up for success before anyone steps foot onto the job site.
New tools can also complete risk assessments and identify contractors who are compliant so that you have the best team possible. Managers can track hazard analysis and required controls in real time with each contractor. Having this knowledge readily accessible can help you know who has valid training for a job, making job assignments more efficient.
Because the tools are online, they can be used in remote induction or safety-orientation training before a contractor enters the job site. This can free up bottlenecks common at the beginning of a job to view a video or complete initial training, ensuring that that the job can start as soon as workers arrive. Once the training is completed, these tools will often compile, track and update the training records, saving managers time by keeping all relevant information in one place.
Once the work starts, tools can help to monitor job sites, including generating work permits for contractors based on training required and limiting access to risky job sites based on who is qualified. Many new tools connect site access security control systems to CMS systems, ensuring that positively no non-qualified contractors’ and/or their workers are coming to site. Access can be as granular as specific areas in the plant to forbid access to dangerous zones, and can be verified every time someone tries to gain access.
Health and safety risk is an inherent part of the pulp and paper industry. Because much of the pulp and paper workforce includes contractors, it is important to build a culture of safety for both your workers and the contractors who work on your job sites.
Anne-Sophie Tétreault is the senior expert for HSSEQ compliance and risk management at Cognibox, a training and compliance management platform.
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of Pulp & Paper Canada.