Pulp and Paper Canada

Next Steps to World Class Safety

April 1, 2004  By Pulp & Paper Canada

In early 2001, a new executive team at Fletcher Challenge Canada, led by NorskeCanada CEO Russ Horner, charted a powerful set of values that would govern leadership behavior within the company. One of those core values was the resolve to change a…

In early 2001, a new executive team at Fletcher Challenge Canada, led by NorskeCanada CEO Russ Horner, charted a powerful set of values that would govern leadership behavior within the company. One of those core values was the resolve to change a safety culture that accepted injuries to our employees as “part of the business”. With the acquisition of Pacifica Papers in mid-2001, the problem became even more pronounced. The integration of two equally-sized paper companies into the new Norske Canada provided the opportunity to forge a new corporate culture with a renewed focus on safety. But how would this transition to excellence occur? Simply mandating a safe workplace would not make it happen.

One of the members of the new executive team remembered a research project on managing for world-class safety by former Dupont executive, Dr. Jim Stewart. Jim had conducted several years of research on this subject at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, while located there as an Executive-In-Residence and Adjunct Professor of Strategic Studies. He has since published a book based on his research entitled “Managing for World Class Safety”. Dr. Stewart has since sold the rights to his world-class safety process to Dupont Canada.


NorskeCanada contacted Dr. Stewart, shared our safety results with him, and explained our search for a solution to delivering on one of our core values. After engaging our unions and site management teams in this potential process for improvement, we were able to retain Dr. Stewart through the Dupont Resources Division of Dupont Canada. Our road to world-class safety had begun.


The process began with a comprehensive survey of 800 employees at all four of our mills. The survey required the completion of questionnaires, compilation of results, collection of data on safety, observations by Dupont experts at our sites, focus groups of workers and supervisors, and a comparison of our results to benchmarks within Dr. Stewart’s research database. There was no denying that our organization had a long journey ahead to achieve world-class safety.

The next step in the process was for a cross section of employees from our four mills — executive, managers, supervisors, union leaders and front line employees — to participate in a future visioning conference. This forum was held in Nanaimo in early 2002, over a two-day period, with 120 participants. An initial plenary presentation on describing the attributes of world-class safety was conducted by Dr. Stewart. This was followed by a review of the NorskeCanada survey results. A series of workshops was then conducted on the future vision of our safety and values. The future vision was then compared to the current reality of our safety results, and gaps were clearly identified. The participants collaboratively developed a set of very powerful safety values to close those gaps. They are as follows:

All injuries can be prevented

Safety has overriding priority

Involvement in safety is essential

Safety is a line responsibility

Safety is built-in to every job

Success in safety is contagious

Needless to say, the central belief that all injuries can be prevented was a stretch for a group of employees who had learned to accept that “accidents happened”. Purging the organization of the word “accident” and replacing it with the word “injury” was an important step in moving to the belief that all injuries can be prevented.

Following the two-day conference, we had 120 champions for the values, however, the follow-up with our remaining 4,000 employees was a critical component of success. All Mill vice presidents committed to have every one of their employees attend a workshop on the new safety values by year-end. Participants in the Nanaimo session from each mill were asked to attend and champion the new values. From these follow-up workshops, a broad understanding of what was possible emerged. Senior management and union leaders began to hold each other accountable for behaving in accordance with the values. Employees began to feel comfortable challenging their supervisors about their commitment to the values. The remaining challenge is to reach the point where employees begin holding themselves and each other accountable for living the safety values.

Much progress has been made, but we have not achieved world-class safety. World class, as defined by Dr. Stewart, would be a Medical Incident frequency rate of less than 1.0 per 200,000 hours worked and a Lost Time Injury frequency rate of less than .15 per 200,000 hours worked.

Our improvement in safety is a matter of pride throughout the organization, and takes a huge amount of effort and commitment by our senior line leaders.


NorskeCanada is in the process of re-surveying our employees with the assistance of Dupont Safety Services. We believe that receiving feedback from our employees on our behavior against our core values is an important part of continuous improvement. Our goal is to have a company that is free of work place injuries. Every employee should be able to work for our company without fear of being injured on the job. Our next challenge will then be to promote effective off-the-job safety for our employees and their families.

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