June 15, 2016  
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Bringing the safety message home:

PPSA annual meeting meets the challenge of change

Cathy Slater, Weyerhaeuser, accepts the 2016 PPSA Executive Eagle Award.

Moving to Mobile for its 73rd annual event, the Pulp & Paper Safety Association (PPSA) conference program touched all the bases, practical and theoretical, and then some. Nancy Garry, HRP Associates, also led a full day session dealing with the fundamentals of OSHA compliance in the paper industry.


This year’s opening keynote speaker was Steve Borkowski, Borkowski & Associates. He told delegates that human error thrives in every industry, but that the greatest cause of human error is not lack of skills or knowledge but organizational weakness. He added that error rates can never be taken to zero but the consequences of errors can be eliminated by installing layers of protection. He asked that companies not fall into the “blame cycle”.

“Things that have never happened before happen all the time,” he said. People are fallible; even the best make mistakes. Companies must make a conscious commitment to reduce/eliminate human error or it is an acceptance of future human error. However, there are human error reduction tools available.

Randy Adams, Kruger, was the first of the mill speakers, looking at management-to-employee communications. Companies need to study how they look at issues. Do they focus on the “problem” or the “opportunity”? Are these issues approached in a positive or negative fashion? In his handout, Adams notes that the outcome can be greatly affected by the attitudes taken to meet the challenge. “They will filter down to the workforce very quickly if not facilitated properly.”

Eric Hobbs, an attorney now with Ogletree Deakins and always a popular speaker at the conference, presented his annual update of OSHA regulations. He told delegates to expect changes with whatever new administration takes over after the November presidential election.

Hobbs said OSHA has a leadership and field crisis as many in the body are getting older and close to retirement. He discussed some of the rules in the pipeline: beryllium; the revocation of obsolete permissible exposure limits (and the imposition of new ones); and combustible dust, to name a few. All employers with more than 250 employees will need to report all recordable incidents electronically and reports will be posted on the OSHA website. Also, this year, employers must relate to employees that employees have the right to report injuries, should do so and how to do so.

Hobbs came back with a second presentation on how to prepare for an OSHA inspection. (This will be the subject of a Paper360° Magazine feature.) Suffice to say that Hobbs warned of the impact of recent OSHA regulations and sub-regulation activity on the handling of OSHA inspections. The stakes are higher. The agency is more aggressive. The taking and keeping of the control of the scope of the inspection by the subject is more critical than ever.

Complacency is often the enemy
Larry Wilson, Safestart, was the keynote speaker for the second day. He pointed out that the most risky things one does are not necessarily the cause of most accidents or injuries. This is because people tend to focus more when faced with increased risk.

Complacency is very often the enemy. People base personal risk assessments on the chance of the unexpected happening. Four states—rushing, frustration, fatigue, and complacency—can cause or contribute to certain critical errors. These critical errors—eyes not on task, mind not on task, line-of-fire, balance/traction/grip—increase the risk of injury. Error prevention techniques to help avoid the critical errors include self-trigger on the state or amount of hazardous energy; analyze close calls and small errors; look at others for the patterns that increase the risk of injury; work on habits.

Wilson also advised delegates not to overlook the “old school” stuff such as training, equipment and permits.

Dennis Downing, Future Industrial Technologies, focused on back injury prevention. He reminded delegates that if a problem persists, then you have not discovered or corrected the true cause. Downing noted that 80% of the US population suffers a back incident every year. What is the cause? Twisting is the most harmful motion. Back injuries are really micro-traumas happening to the body over time. Proper techniques for activities such as lifting are needed to prevent these micro-traumas. He gave three simple rules: Keep the load close; keep the head up; keep the nose between the toes.

Going back into the mill, Bayless Kilgore, Ensafe, discussed the dangers of combustible dust. He presented a video that showed the devastating effects of dust explosions, which can happen across many industries.

It is important to clean out-of-the-way places where dust can accumulate. Also, check your processes to ensure minimal dust production. The smaller and drier the dust particle, the more hazardous the dust is. A proper (and well-maintained) dust collection system is critical for preventing explosions. Companies need to know the properties of the dust they generate to be able to properly design a collection/conveyance system.

The focus was on Domtar and its use of the human performance improvement process (HPI). Michel Paquette described the principles of HPI, including that people are fallible and that error-likely situations are predictable, manageable and preventable.

HPI is not limited to safety; it touches all value drivers and moves away from relegating human error to a fault-based system. Paquette noted that 20% of unwanted events are from equipment failure while the rest are from human error, of which more than half result from latent organizational weaknesses. HPI investigations try to see incidents through the eyes of the worker. It is a systemic approach to root cause analysis.

David Orton, Mohawk Paper, brought things back to basics when he spoke about fall prevention and roof guarding. Falls are still firmly ensconced in OSHA’s top 10 causes of death in the workplace.

Fall arrest systems should be rigged so that a worker cannot fall more than six feet. Protective fall equipment should be inspected for damage before and after use. It should be removed from service after a fall for inspection.
Thomas Smith, Brady, gave an update on GHS implementation, from law to labeling. The GHS standard covers all chemicals in the US. June 1, 2016, was the deadline for application but many questions remain. (This will also be the subject of a future Paper360° Magazine feature.)

The biggest challenges to be met, according to Smith, are labels, safety data sheets and training. He said that labels need to contain six common elements. Training should be reinforced. It has gone from a “right to know” to a “right to understand”. Simply handing an employee an SDS does not comply. Electronic copies of an SDS are OK but a back-up system is needed and hard copies need to be on hand for first responders in case power is lost.

Ted Borgerding, AstenJohnson, spoke from personal experience of the effect of workplace accidents. He cited the fraction of a second it takes to pull a grown person into a moving nip. We need to rely on each other to succeed. Most of OSHA’s top 10 most frequently cited violations can be found in a pulp and paper mill and a mill contains numerous others that are not on that top 10 list.

Although personal protective equipment (PPE) is essential, no manmade device can override an individual’s disregard for his or her own safety. The most important piece of PPE is the brain. The only way any program can work is with a personal commitment; no one can force anyone to work safely. Borgerding provided a list of do’s as a way to help:

  • Walk in their shoes;
  • Observe and learn;
  • Know our nips;
  • Train, train, train;
  • Perform proactive job hazard analysis.
  • The Silver Tsunami
    The ageing workforce—referred to as the platinum or silver tsunami—has been an ongoing issue in this industry for the better part of 20 years. Dr. Warren Silverman, Access Health Systems, noted that more than 33% of the US workforce is already older than 50, and many of these are not contemplating retirement.

    He cited statistics that showed 38% of those aged 50 to 64 envision working beyond 65 and that another 31% of the remainder would consider staying if they had flexibility in the job. The number of those aged 65 working full time versus part time is rising rapidly.

    Silverman discussed many of the effects of ageing: reduced muscle mass; loss of vision, manual dexterity, and flexibility; and slower reaction time. He also discussed many of the at-work measures that employers can take to alleviate the effects of ageing and keep these workers productive.

    To go along with the formal papers, the popular New Technology Showcase featured nine companies giving short presentations on their latest innovations.

    Finally, the PPSA’s highest honor, the Executive Eagle, was presented to Cathy Slater, Weyerhaeuser. In a truly touching and profound acceptance speech, Slater discussed her personal journey in the industry, which shaped her views and commitment to safety during her career and led to her being awarded the Eagle.

    Reservations and sponsorships for the induction event can be made through the Paper Industry International Hall of Fame office at 920-380-7491.

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