Shifting to a Culture of Safety

Nov 12, 2018

By Mike Grimm
President & CEO, American Eagle Paper Mills

Over the past few years, American Eagle Paper Mills fully embraced our environmental sustainability, but it became clear that our worker safety needed much more attention.

Noting that the recordable safety incidents at our Tyrone, Pennsylvania mill were above the industry average, and unacceptable to our long-term sustainability, we determined that safety should be our main area of focus for 2017.

We started by implementing a 5-S organization method and audit system to help make our facility a better and safer place for employees to work:

  • SORT through all the items in the workplace and eliminate items that are outdated or no longer in use;
  • SET IN ORDER, or "straighten," by organizing the entire workspace;
  • SHINE by cleaning the workplace;
  • STANDARDIZE; and
  • SUSTAIN the behavior so it becomes habit.

Through the 5-S system, we identified issues and inadequacies with our equipment guards such as ones that were missing, damaged, ineffective, or needing redesign. New guards were fabricated and installed by our maintenance department.

Communication was key to achieving a safe workplace. Safety managers spent more time out on the floor interacting with employees and less time in their offices; we held monthly safety meetings with each department; and signs and bulletin boards with safety information were mounted at all entranceways leading into the mill.

Finally, we embraced employee empowerment by encouraging all our workers to stop an individual who they felt was creating a potential incident that could result in an injury or death to another employee. Employees were assured that there would be no negative repercussions whether they were right or wrong for their action taken.

After one lost-time accident in January 2017, we completed 365 days without a lost-time injury in January 2018—a record achievement in the history of the mill. This reduction in injuries is not only felt in the mill; Tyrone is small town and when someone is hurt, it touches and affects the entire community.

We celebrated our accomplishment of 365 days without a lost time injury with a mill-wide lunch celebration and presented all of our employees with a customized gift. Our safety progress belongs to and benefits all of us at American Eagle and we are proud of what we have achieved together.

American Eagle Paper Mills received the 2018 AF&PA Leadership in Sustainability Award for Safety (Small Company) for its Shifting to a Culture of Safety project.