GP Employee Spotlight: Stewards of Safety

GP is shining the light on amazing employees that contribute to the success of our company and their career journey that keeps them fulfilled.

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GP is shining the light on amazing employees that contribute to the success of our company and their career journey that keeps them fulfilled. We talked to a couple of employees about their role and how important safety is on a daily basis for them. 

Meet Melvin

GP Employee Spotlight: Stewards of Safety

Melvin Whatley

Melvin Whatley is a safety leader at Brewton bleached board in Alabama and is responsible for promoting the health and safety of team members while being a resource that includes member safety training and PPE selection, performing in-process work assessments for maintenance and contractors and workplace hazard identification analysis in operational areas.

Q: What’s unique about your work environment as it relates to safety?

A: Our facility is unique in that we not only produce containerboard and bleached board for our customers, but we also process various chemicals that require a level of safe handling through very specific, compliance-based processes.  That categorizes us as a papermaking facility as well as a chemical process facility.

Q: What do you find most fulfilling about your role?

A: I enjoy spending time in the operating areas and talking to the team members, building relationships and understanding the challenges they face to develop solutions that will positively impact their role.

Q: What is something about safety that might not be common knowledge/practice that employees should know?

A: That safety is fun! Having a good attitude about yourself, your team members, and your work environment can make your day safe and productive.  We have to want to be safe—and in turn safety then becomes easy with a positive effort to work safely.

Q: What tools/technology do you use the most that contributes to a safe working environment?

A: Our MBM® Guiding Principles set the culture for our facility. We also rely heavily on Human & Organizational Performance (HOP) to build and sustain systems that can keep our team members safe during unplanned events or upset conditions.

Q: Why is safety important to you?

A: Safety is important to me because I want each of our team members to be able to go home to their families at the end of their work shift.  Our team members aren’t just employees or numbers on an ID card.  They are flesh and blood and someone they love, whether a family member or pet, is waiting for them to come home.  I want to do all I can to ensure that happens each and every day for our team.

 ​Meet Dawn

GP Employee Spotlight: Stewards of Safety

Dawn Wurst

GP Employee Spotlight: Stewards of Safety

Dawn Wurst is a senior vice president that leads the safety capability at GP. Dawn helps to integrate resources while working with her team to create and execute their path to zero strategy with a vision of zero significant incidents.

Q: What’s unique about your work environment as it relates to safety?

A: Leveraging our path to zero strategy elements, we now measure safety success based on how robust our systems and capabilities are, rather than just counting incidents. We are looking for where our systems are most ‘brittle’- where are we one mistake away from a very bad day?  We are focusing more on leading indicators such as high potential conditions- particularly those that are raised by front line employees. We have found significant value in asking for those insights and following up with actions to make our sites a safer place to work.

Q: What do you find most fulfilling about your role?

A: I would say my role is the definition of fulfilment. At the end of the day, every one of my RR&Es are about supporting GP employees to go home to their families after a safe day or night on the job. I never have to wonder why I am coming to work. I have seen many incidents over my career, and they serve as constant motivation to always improve, always transform, and always think of the people that we are doing this for and with. We have come a long way, but we still have an uphill climb in front of us to make GP the leader of our industry in safety. As they say, challenge accepted!

Q: What tools/technology do you use the most that contributes to a safe working environment?

A: There is a great deal of technology being developed and used in the safety space. Here’s two notable examples:

We are moving from paper safe work permitting to a new Save My Life start work process based on three questions: “What can kill me or change my life? What controls are in place? And is that enough?” We are executing that process on a tablet, which allows the best information to be with those doing the job on the floor. There are 59 GP sites that have already converted to the electronic execution of the thought process, with the remaining sites to be complete by third quarter of 2022.  ​

We have also developed training for isolation of hazardous energy that utilizes a virtual reality headset to walk a person through a bad day—seeing the consequences of errors in energy isolation. They can also use the VR headset to isolate energy correctly, and the opportunity to execute a lock-out and receive feedback on any errors along the way. This training is nearly ready for primetime, coming first to our Gypsum business later this year.

Q: What is something about safety that might not be common knowledge/practice that employees should know?

A: Over the past 3 years, GP has had a reduction in significant injuries and fatalities (SIFs), while also having a dramatic decrease in safety-related job separations. These results show that we are walking the talk of our GP and KII Safety Vision: building capability in our people and resilience in our systems, learning both proactively and from our incidents, valuing worker input and involvement, and not jumping straight to discipline before we learn the context of the situation.”

Q: Why is safety important to you?

A: “I didn’t know something like that could happen here.” Listening to a fellow employee say that after a significant event where they were injured and knowing that I had a part in the multiple gaps that led to the incident has since driven my career in safety.