Pulp and Paper Canada

Safest Mill in Canada Contest (March 01, 2008)

March 1, 2008  By Pulp & Paper Canada

In 1926 Pulp & Paper Canada Magazine launched its ‘Safest Mill in Canada’ contest to recognize and honour those operations that go beyond the norm. Interest in safety has continued to increase ove…

In 1926 Pulp & Paper Canada Magazine launched its ‘Safest Mill in Canada’ contest to recognize and honour those operations that go beyond the norm. Interest in safety has continued to increase over the years, cutting down on injury and lost hours, directly affecting bottom-line competitiveness for the better. In all three categories of mills covered, the ‘good stats’ keep on growing.

Even though times have been tough for this industry, with ferocious cost cutting, mills consistently show that they can – and do – maintain and achieve excellent performance per- in workplace safety.


The staff of Pulp & Paper Canada Magazine offer congratulations to the Category Winners – and to all those who participated and collectively strive to make the industry safer.

Category A

Domtar Inc., Windsor, QC In 2005 Domtar/Windsor made its first appearance, placing sixth out of nine mills. In 2006 it was second of seven mills. Today, it’s number one in its category; among other criteria, Domtar/Windsor boasts a 76% reduction in Total Recordable Frequency in three years, the best in the A category.

AbitibiBowater, Thunder Bay, ON, receives special mention this year, however. The mill was Category A winner in 2006 and was a close second behind Domtar of Windsor. Says Pat Miller, superintendent of Health at AbitibiBowater in Thunder Bay: “2007 was our best year ever but unfortunately we were beaten out by 50,000 man-hours. We are proud of our performance in 2007 as it was achieved during some tough times in our business.” Smurfit-Stone, La Tuque, QC For the second year in a row, Smurfit-Stone/La Tuque has won top honours in Category B. (In 2005, it placed second in B. In 2004, it was second in Category A before changing categories due to a decrease in man hours worked.) Total Recordable Frequency is down 69% from 2004 to 2007, with a four-year average frequency of 1.12; both stats are tops in Category B.

Category C

Sonoco Canada Corp, Brantford, ON For the third year in a row, Sonoco Canada/Brantford took Category C with a perfect score of zero Total Recordable Frequency. (First in 2006, Sonoco/Brantford was third in 2005 only because the first and second place winners had also scored a perfect zero frequency but with more hours worked.) The four-year average frequency: 0.36 and the lowest in Category C and the best of all three categories. Sustained performance, indeed.

Sonoco/Brantford’s 2004-2007 Total Recordable Frequency reduction of 100% -another perfect score -is the best of all 44 mills in the competition. Also of note: two other Smurfit-Stone mills -Matane and Portage-du-Fort, QC -placed second and third, just behind Sonoco/Brantford.

Some Winning Thoughts on Safety

Domtar/Windsor Safety starts with management belief and commitment When Pulp & Paper Canada contacted and congratulated the company on its first-place Category B position and asked how it was done, the management and health/safety manager Serge Boulianne credited the “continuous efforts over many years aimed at improving our performance in workplace health and safety.

“Notwithstanding the fact that the general emphasis is focused on prevention, by capital investment to render the mill equipment safer or by improving employee awareness through training and communication, it all starts with the importance that mill management attaches to the prevention of accidents.

“Every production meeting begins by addressing safety issues. Every accident, including even [minor] first aid-cases, are investigated by the supervisors in order to determine the causes and what corrective measures must be implemented. All recordable cases are reviewed and analysed in a meeting chaired by the mill manager.

“The local union executive fully supports these measures in order to assure a safe workplace, as well as a positive participation by the employees.

“New rules have been introduced to increase worker safety. For example, every employee must now wear eye protection, all users of knives must wear cut-proof safety gloves, and those who are exposed to dangerous chemical products must wear special protective clothing and equipment. On top of this, safety rules in the mill are now enforced much more rigorously than ever before.

“This, combined with a greater awareness and safety consciousness on the part of the employees are the major reasons for our improved performance in safety.

“We are proud of the work accomplished by all our employees in this prevention effort. In 2008, we continue the drive to insure that our safety performance improves and remains a core value for the entire mill personnel.”

Smurfit-Stone/La Tuque Employee-driven safety culture is a corporate tradition In early 2008 Smurfit-Stone Container Corporation proudly issued a press release highlighting the company’s industry-leading safety performance since 2001, with its 2007 performance the best yet with a Recordable Case Rate (RCR) of 1.05. In the release, company president and chief operating officer Steve Klinger credited it all to “an incredible tradition of safety achievement” and “our outstanding level of employee involvement.”

Call it telling but the Smurfit-Stone/ La Tuque operation underlined that commitment with a celebration of its own. It won Category C.

In 1995 Smurfit-Stone (corporate) launched its Smurfit-Stone Accident- Free Environment (SAFE) program. Today, occupational injuries and illnesses have been reduced by nearly 90%. The goal is to completely eliminate occupational injuries and illnesses.

“Our employee-driven safety culture has benefited from an incredible level of collaboration between labour and management,” said Klinger. “It is a true source of pride within our organization, it makes good business sense for everyone, and it is simply the right thing to do.”

The La Tuque mill participated with other Smurfit-Stone mills in setting the overall corporate safety initiative focus for 2008, underlying Smurfit-Stone’s grasp of realistic hazard management and effective exposure reduction activity and what COO Klinger calls the company’s goal to achieve “world-class” safety status.

Eight key areas have been identified to meet the 2008 goal of a further 10% reduction in RCR. These are: control of hazardous energy; electrical, machine, maintenance; material handling; change control safety; hearing conservation and; safety-system performance measurement.

Pierre Pacarar, general manager of the La Tuque mill, says “every single employee of Smurfit-Stone La Tuque mill should be very, very proud of their accomplishment.” Concludes Pacarar: “We are very proud of the effectiveness of our health and safety programs. We are equally proud of our employees’ constant vigilance and continued commitment towards safety.”

Sonoco Canada Corp. Cultural change through total employee involvement “Sonoco, as a whole, fosters a safety culture which believes that not one pound of paper or one minute of production is worth putting an employee at risk,” explains Jim Maloney, mill manager, Sonoco/Brantford. “Sonoco/ Brantford is one paper mill in that Sonoco family.

“Approximately 10 years ago, Brantford recognized we needed a cultural change and the involvement of all employees to improve our safety record. We introduced a behaviourbased safety program and gained the trust and buy-in of our employees. In 2002, we introduced another safety program and trained our employees to recognize the four “at risk” states: rushing, complacency, frustration and fatigue, and also how to avoid them.

“Our employees are now more comfortable in pointing out safety issues to their peers and also reporting close calls and issues. This gave us a chance to eliminate problems before someone actually is hurt.

“Employee awareness is the key. Keep safety at the forefront, keep safety activities fresh
and interesting for all employees. We have designed safety games with awards -HECP [Hazardous Energy Control Procedures] Hockey, SSP [Standard Safe Practices] Golf, Clarity Poker, Safety Bingo, crosswords, word searches, etcetera that involve all employees and participation is mandatory. Employees participate in teams completing safety audits, reviewing and updating safety procedures and rules, and then are rewarded by their participation.

“Brantford also involves the employees’ families: home mailings, glow sticks for employees’ children on Halloween, asking employees to change their smoke detectors batteries which we provide, etcetera. It’s little things.

“Brantford has a full-time safety coordinator, a management team focused on safety and employees who are proud of their safety record and dedicated to it. Safety is number-one and we will shut down to fix a safety issue.

“There is no magic bullet. It’s the work of all the employees and their ownership and pride in the mill that keeps each one of us going home safe each day.”

Defining World-class Safety

Thomas Cecich, CSP, CIH, is a renowned U. S. expert on safety. Writing in Occupational Hazards (June 2004), he says that defining this level of safety is like defining beauty: it’s in the eye of the beholder. While many companies “aspire to excellence” and claim they are “best” at safety, words and actions can be different things.

To get a real handle on safety, Cecich says safety managers should use solid benchmarks to gauge ‘world-class’ safety performance and results. Some of his key “excellence” benchmarks are:

• The elimination of injuries, illnesses and losses;

• Safety is perceived by management and customers as a competitive advantage;

• Benchmarking against other organizations is promoted;

• Safety achievement is sustainable across multiple business cycles.

Good times and bad times, a true “world-class” safety program remains solid and is supported not just when business is booming. Says Cecich: “A company that cannot sustain its safety management program during economic downswings has not come close to achieving world-class safety.”

Key Trends

Overall mill recordable incident rates decline but lost-time incident rates still climb. Smaller mills seem to be performing better than larger mills. (In all three categories, especially Category C, the smaller mills are rapidly closing the gap between them and the big mills in the top five spots). There is still much to be done.

A close look at the statistics submitted by the 44 mills indicate that overall, despite a 28% reduction in Recordable Case Rates (RCR) since 2003, the more severe injury or lost time rates have climbed more than 45% since 2002. This suggests that new initiatives are needed to reverse the escalation of severe-injury rates in North American mills.

Dr. Jim Stewart, safety expert and former vice-president of Dupont, defines “world-class” safety as a Total Recordable Frequency of less than 1.0 and a Lost Time (Lost Workday) Frequency of less than 0.15 per 200,000 hours worked (p. 54, April 2007, Pulp and Paper Canada Magazine). By this criterion, the Smurfit-Stone and Sonoco mills’ performance is solidly world class with Domtar/Windsor and several other mills on that pathway. Incidentally, the three Smurfit-Stone mills in the contest would be tops in a combined corporate group performance category, if it existed.

Pulp and Paper Canada Magazine compiles statistics from participating mills on an ongoing basis throughout the year. The changes made to the contest rules in 2004 introduced more comprehensive incident reporting that called for Total Recordable Cases (all medical treatment cases broken down as fatalities, lost-time, restricted-work, or medical treatment only cases), not just Fatalities and Lost Time cases. This provides a much broader, more sensitive, performance indicator that helps reduce a lot of ties for first place. In addition, it has permitted the more complete contest data to identify different trends.

Lost Time Rates: In addition, it closely parallels the US Dept. of Labour (OSHA) incident reporting requirements that many multinational forestry companies must respect, thus reducing their reporting burden.

Thank you to John Little for his help contacting the winners and compiling the above information for the magazine. Mr. Little is a risk management consultant (B. Eng-Mech./CRM) and specializes in optimising safety and energy management systems. During his career he had corporate responsibility for Occupational Health and Safety Systems at Abitibi(-Price)-Bowater and Canada Post Corporation.

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