Failing to de-energize equipment before changeouts and maintenance is a recognized hazard in sawmills, according to OSHA.

Sawmill Wins Michigan VPP Rising Star Award

The evaluation team cited senior management's involvement, a corporate EH&S hotline, and the mill's "Buddy" System for lockout/tagout as some of the reasons for honoring the Gwinn Lumber Mill owned by Potlatch Corp.

Representatives of the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) presented the Michigan Voluntary Protection Program Rising Star Award for workplace safety and health excellence on Feb. 9 to Potlatch Corp.'s Gwinn Lumber Mill. MIOSHA Consultation Education and Training Division Acting Director Nella Davis-Ray presented it to Chuck Paulsen, who chairs the Plant Wide Safety Team; Ernest Letson, the team's former chair; and David Ruokolainen, vice chair of the team.

MVPP Rising Star sites must have incidence rates below the Michigan average for three years. The Gwwin rates are well below the industry average for its NAICS code 321113 − Sawmills: Its total case incidence rate was 2.5 in 2007, 2.1 in 2008, and 1.4 in 2009, versus the BLS Michigan industry average of 7.7 in 2007 and 6.9 in 2008 and 2009. The mill's total days away/restricted cases (DART) rate was 2.5 in 2007 and 1.4 in 2008 and 2009, versus the BLS industry average of 3.9 in 2007 and 3.4 in 2008 and 2009, according to MIOSHA.

"Potlatch's Gwinn Lumber Mill is to be commended for its exemplary commitment to workplace safety and health," said MIOSHA Director Doug Kalinowski. "We're honored to recognize every worker at the facility for their dedication to work safely while providing outstanding wood products in a sustainable environment."

"We are extremely pleased to receive this recognition for safety performance," said Gwinn Plant Manager Ron Salisbury. "Every employee at the Gwinn operation contributes to our success, and we all share together in the pride that comes with receiving this award."

The MIOSHA site team said Gwinn's areas of excellence include top management's being active on the Plant Wide Safety Team, which performs quarterly audits; safety is built into the approval process for large capital projects; there is a review procedure for new products to determine their impact on the work site; and Potlatch has a corporate EH&S hotline all employees can use to report safety concerns. A best practice at Gwinn -- one of four sawmills owned by Potlatch, which has its corporate offices in Spokane, Wash. -- is its lockout/tagout "Buddy" System installed in 2006, according to MIOSHA. The system is an additional verification step to ensure de-energizing of processes or pieces of equipment is done and done correctly.

The review team recommended improvements in training, employee involvement, and hazard prevention/control as the site works toward star status.

"National VPP sites experience 60 to 80 percent less lost work day injuries than would be expected of an average site in their industry," said Davis-Ray. "Not only does the MVPP program significantly reduce injuries and illnesses - it also has a tremendous impact on the bottom line."

OSHA's 29 CFR 1910.265 includes safety requirements for sawmill operations, including lockout/tagout, power tools, log and lumber handling, sawing, trimming, and planing; and other issues. The agency's sawmills eTool is available here.

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