By Dennis Seid
Norbord marks several safety milestones
By Dennis Seid
GUNTOWN – Visits from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration usually aren’t ones to savor, but the Norbord Inc. plant here relished them.
The company, which makes wood-based panels, rolled out the welcome mat to OSHA because it took part in the federal agency’s Voluntary Protection Program, which recognizes “exemplary workplace safety and health systems.”
On Friday, OSHA presented officially named Norbord Mississippi, the company’s Guntown plant, a VPP Star site.
It’s only the second company with the designation in Lee County – the other is Hunter Douglas – and one of only 55 statewide.
Norbord Mississippi opened in 1995. It now employs 126 workers.
As the program name suggests, OSHA is invited by a company to check its records and programs, as well as interview its employees to see if it meets stringent standards for VPP Star site designation.
“This is the culmination of years of blood, sweat and tears, said Andy Lollar, general manager of Norbord Mississippi. “This is OSHA’s premier designation and it’s a tremendous honor.”
Barrie Shineton, Norbord’s CEO, said the Guntown plant was the company’s third to get the coveted Star Site designation.
Shineton said the company wants all Norbord plants in the U.S. to get the certification, and its plants in Europe and Canada to attain similar safety standards. Norbord has 15 plants.
Shineton said the company’s focus on safety became more intense three years ago.
“In 2007, Norbord’s safety performance was average for the industry,” he said. “But being average meant we were seriously injuring people. In the past two years, we’ve taken many steps to change that situation.”
For example, the company’s 300 supervisors went to company headquarters in Toronto, Canada to learn about new safety programs, including the company’s own Safety Star Status, which combines OSHA’s VPP Star requirements and Norbord’s own safety expectation.
The result, Shineton said, is a renewed concentration on the safety and health of its employees
“We’re showing that production does not come at the expense of safety,” he said.
In addition to the OSHA Star designation the Guntown plant on Friday celebrated getting the company’s Safety Star status.
Company officials also noted that the plant achieved 1 million hours without a lost-time safety accident. That means the facility has gone four years without a major accident causing an employee to miss work.
“We couldn’t have achieved any of this without our team members buying into the program and believing in it,” Lollar said.
Friday’s ceremony at Norbord Mississippi concluded with a steak luncheon for employees and dignitaries, and a plant tour.