In our month-long focus on safety, Environmental Health and Safety Manager Julie Stout from our Philomath, Oregon, mill shares her views on why safety matters.
Q: Did you seek-out a safety-related role?
A: I always wanted to work in the safety department at Philomath, and I have a degree in Health and Physical Education. But I started in clean-up and worked my way up into production until there was an opening in Safety. People’s wellbeing has always been important to me.
Q: What is the most important thing you do at work each day?
A: The most important thing I do is build and maintain relationships with people. If I know why our employees do what they do and what they’re thinking about when they make their decisions, I can better motivate them to work safely.
Q: How do you help promote safety excellence at your facility?
A: We strive to achieve safety excellence here, so there’s a lot of employee ownership, and everyone keeps an eye out for one another. For example, if we have a contractor who’s not following the proper safety procedures, our employees can respectfully ask him to leave the site. This has happened before. Mill leadership will always support these kinds of decisions, and our employees know that. Safety is truly a value here, and we demonstrate that both on and off the job.
Q: Is there anything you or your team do differently when it comes to safety?
A: One thing we do that’s a little different is we have our own monthly safety score card, and each team – including leadership – has different metrics every month we try to meet. For example, the leadership team has “Safety Contacts,” where they have a conversation each day with someone about safety and document who they spoke with and what they talked about. Everyone has expectations, such as TRAX reporting and monthly safety training scores, lockout audits, department inspections, SWP field audits and safety observations. All of that goes into monthly scorecards, so we all know exactly where each department stands and we’re accountable for our actions and performance. It also encourages competition between departments, and rivalries based around who can work more safely is never a bad thing.
Q: What is the most surprising thing about safety at Philomath?
A: Since 2001, the Philomath plant has been a VPP Star site, meaning it’s part of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Volunteer Protection Program (VPP). Every VPP site must have a designated Special Government Employee (SGE), and at Philomath, that’s me. In fact, I was recently named SGE of the year for Region 10, which includes the states of Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Alaska. I completed OSHA training and now participate in audits at other companies that are VPP sites.
It’s a unique experience to go on an OSHA audit, and it also gives me the opportunity to see different approaches to safety. So, if I see something at a site that might work in Philomath, I share it with our team, and if I think we’re doing something that can benefit employees somewhere else, I tell them about it. There’s no competition when it comes to safety.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: The people! I started working at the GP Philomath facility 10 years ago, and I feel like I understand employees’ concerns and challenges in part because I’ve worked on the floor. I’ve often encountered or seen others experience similar challenges, and I try to use that knowledge to make employees’ jobs safer, more efficient, and provide them with tools they can use to be successful. I really enjoy doing that.