Thin Plywood Industry in Finland sets example to improve occupational safety

10-05-2019
Koskisen,Finland,thin plywood,occupational safety

The Thin Plywood Industry unit in Hirvensalmi, Finland, has been working hard to improve safety for several years now. These efforts are bearing fruit, as in 2018 the level of activeness in reporting safety observations reached a full 100 per cent, with every one of the unit’s employees having made at least one safety observation. An average of five safety observations per person were reported, while the Group’s annual target is three per person.

At the same time, the unit’s LTA1 (Lost Time Accidents) figure, which reflects the number of accidents leading to an absence from work, decreased to 12.61; the Group-level figure in 2018 was 17.9. For this year, Koskisen has set the LTA1 target at under 10. The long-term target is 0 accidents.

Behind the unit’s success is especially the fact that the entire personnel has really internalised the importance of safety, and that responsibility for safety has been cascaded to all employees, not just to a single person


Long-term safety work

“At Koskisen, we work to improve safety for the long term. Attitudes toward safety work and participation has been identified as an area in need of development at all levels. Progress has been made in this area in recent years, but what really stands out at Hirvensalmi is the systematic approach to safety work and getting everyone involved. Safety work is part of normal operations and not a separate event. Hopefully the work performed at Hirvensalmi will also encourage others to make all of our workplaces safer,” says Markku Lähteenmäki, Koskisen’s Director of Quality, Safety and Environment.

Behind the unit’s success is especially the fact that the entire personnel has really internalised the importance of safety, and that responsibility for safety has been cascaded to all employees, not just to a single person.

“We have made safety into a process, just like quality assurance. It concerns every employee and is in everyone’s job description,” explains Kai Ahvenranta, a peeling machine operator and the OHS delegate for employees of the thin veneer plywood unit.

“It is extremely important to listen to employees and put their observations and improvement suggestions to use in order to ensure everyone’s commitment,” stresses Katja Pasanen, Production Manager for Thin Plywood Industry.

The change in assimilating a culture of safety has started, above all, from the inside. Ahvenranta would like to thank the entire personnel for internalising the new safety culture.

“The entire personnel deserve thanks. There is strength in our group, and the improvement in safety is the result of good co-operation,” he says.

Employer allows time for improving safety

Ahvenranta also wants to highlight the employer’s contribution to improving the safety culture.

“Great importance has been placed on safety throughout the organisation, and as a result, supervisors have encouraged employees to focus on safety. When time is allotted to improving safety, it is easier to make a plan and carry it out,” he says.

A systematic approach is important when it comes to ensuring personnel’s commitment to improving safety. Hirvensalmi has scheduled ‘ELMERI’ rounds, where teams visits different work stations and make safety-improvement observations. The employees are included in the rounds, and their coverage has been expanded by including different people each time.

Ahvenranta also makes regular rounds as an OHS delegate. Having a presence, as well as familiar places and people, have encouraged personnel’s commitment to taking safety into account.

Safety campaigns all year long

In addition to long-term work, Hirvensalmi has adopted safety campaigns with different themes. The campaigns run throughout the year, and the themes cover both locally important issues and general safety matters.

“Thanks to the campaigns, we have been able to call attention to, for example, passage routes and weather conditions. Other improvements resulting from the safety campaigns are the marking of safety switches and inspection of their condition,” says Ahvenranta.

He stresses that targets and plans must be achievable. In addition, having several overlapping action plans is a way to ensure that targets are achieved, because if one phase fails to produce results, the other measures will make up for it.

“It is also important to follow up on the plans. If, during a follow up, it is discovered that a plan has not been implemented, immediate action can be taken and changes can be made so that the targets are met,” Ahvenranta concludes.