Their classrooms are the plant floors of Georgia-Pacific’s more than 150 manufacturing operations. They learn by doing. Their teachers? Experienced safety managers as well as the people who operate the company’s tissue converting machines, plywood lathes, corrugators and other equipment and processes.
They are the entry level professionals (ELP) in GP’s global safety and health group. And over a period of 18 to 36 months, they are schooled in everything from proper safety procedures to how GP products are made to coaching employees on managing safety.
“GP started the ELP program in 2007 to link safety even more closely to how our manufacturing operations are run,” says Jennifer Johnston, the program’s manager.
The program typically has 20 participants at any one time and is focused on three development areas:
- technical, where participants learn the specific skills they need to be a safety professional
- operational knowledge, where they spend time learning about how manufacturing processes work
- leadership, which involves applying the company’s Market Based Management® operating philosophy to health and safety practices
Program participants spend a few months learning the basics at Georgia-Pacific headquarters in Atlanta before they are assigned to work in a facility or business unit. They will ultimately do safety rotations in two different businesses before applying for and landing a job assignment.
It’s the program’s focus on development through on-the-job training that attracts recruits.
“It’s a great opportunity to learn,” says Wayne Robbins, a current program participant working with GP’s lumber business. “The on-the-job experience lets you work at a high level, and it gives you a sense of confidence before you take a job at a facility or with a business unit.”
Nichole Carpenter-Speller, a program participant at the company’s Waxahachie, Texas, corrugated box plant, agrees. “The ELP program walks you through the process - you don’t get into a situation where you’re out of your depth.”
“The program provides a clear developmental path for future safety and health leaders at GP. It’s a way of sustaining safety at Georgia-Pacific over time,” says Johnston.
And it’s key to helping reach Georgia-Pacific’s vision of safety excellence -- achieving and sustaining an injury-free workplace.