On the Journey to Injury-Free

International Paper began the road to injury-free in 2010 with the introduction of the LIFE initiative, which focuses on eliminating life-changing injuries and fatalities.


At International Paper (IP) we believe the true measure of success is our ability to send every team member, contractor, and visitor home safely at the end of each day. Safety is a core value at IP, and we believe injury-free is possible. That value won’t change regardless of business conditions or production priorities.

Our journey to injury-free is centered around four key components: Safety Leading Indicators (SLIs), which allow us to be more proactive; integrating layers of protection into our processes through the use of Human and Organizational Performance (HOP); engaging with our team members and stakeholders; and creating a culture of caring where safety leaders feel empowered to make the safe choice the right choice every time. These four pillars of our safety culture have shifted the way we think, and challenged us to approach and feel differently about safety than we have in the past.


The shift became evident in 2016, when IP began measuring SLIs among 55,000 colleagues across the global operations. This proactive approach to safety revealed that we were trying to learn from only a handful of serious injuries each year, rather than the full breadth of hazards, errors, near-misses, and precursors that our team members face every day. We were spending 80 to 90 percent of our time reacting when someone was hurt. Now, we have moved to spending 80 to 90 percent of our time identifying those precursors to injuries and tackling them with the same passion and effort we would if someone were seriously hurt.

IP’s SLIs are depicted through a pinwheel (see illustration). They include: LIFE Project Plan Execution, Hazard Recognition and Control, LIFE Potential Identification, Safe Work Observations, Employee Engagement, 5S Performance, and Safety Leadership Training and Certification.

LIFE Project Plan Execution measures the closure of gaps for a site’s Environment, Health and Safety improvements. Hazard Recognition and Control tracks the percentage of our team members trained in identifying and mitigating hazards. LIFE Potentials are incidents or near misses that could have easily resulted in a life-impacting injury or fatality. Safe Work Observations and Engagement both contribute to the practice of having meaningful safety conversations with team members, recognizing good safety practices, and intervening when an unsafe condition or action is observed. These conversations are reviewed and discussed by team members at our sites to apply what we learn in other areas or locations. 5S Performance is how sites are standardizing work areas to be clean, organized, and clear of any unnecessary waste.

Finally, Safety Leadership Training and Certification is one of the most important ways IP invests in our people to create caring and courageous safety leaders. In 2018, we will include IP Contract Coordinator Training in our SLIs to measure how many of our contract coordinators are equipped with the tools needed to provide oversight to the contractors who work with us.

I believe the SLI initiative has been transformational for our company. We encourage everyone at IP to become engaged and embrace the SLIs.


Fig. 1: Causes of accidents. (Source: U.S. Department of Energy Human Performance
Improvement Handbook.)

IP is changing how we define safety performance. Rather than defining good safety performance as the absence of injuries, we are defining good safety performance as the presence of defenses or the capacity to manage hazards at our facilities. We are integrating the HOP principles into our systems and processes. Over the past few years we have worked with HOP consultants and benchmarked ourselves against other companies practicing the principles.

It is human nature to make mistakes—we all do it. About 80 percent of accidents are because of human error; 70 percent of those are actually because of latent organizational weaknesses (see Fig. 1). HOP principles help us understand these weaknesses. That is why IP is working to understand where and how we can integrate “Layers of Protection” into our existing systems and build capacity.

One way we are incorporating these principles is by thinking of incident reviews as event learnings. We are beginning to think more about what failed rather than who failed. This involves understanding what happened during an event by talking directly to the people closest to the event. We want to study what took place or failed before this event occurred. Figure 2 helps visualize how an event occurs.

We are making deliberate efforts to introduce and educate everyone in the enterprise on HOP principles; I am sure this will help us prevent serious injuries.


On our journey to achieving an injury-free workplace, we need 100 percent engagement from our team members and contractors at all IP locations globally. Every year we continue to strengthen our relationships with our union leaders, customers, suppliers, vendors, contractors, joint-venture partners, and other business partners, and I can say with confidence that it makes a difference. Through these relationships, we are improving our communications and learning how we can best implement new initiatives. I believe that these partnerships are absolutely necessary for us to send people home safely at the end of each day.

Recently, one of our facility managers said, “The leaders in my mill want to do the right thing. They care and want to send everyone home safely, but they don’t always know how.” This statement resonated with me. I truly believe we all genuinely care about our team members and want everyone to go home safely at the end of the day. However, in the past, the desire to keep everyone safe conflicted with production pressures. That’s no longer the case.

We are providing our team members with safety leadership skills to feel empowered and courageous when it comes to safety by intervening and finding ways to build in layers of protection. To be injury-free, we must have caring leaders who have integrity and an attitude that energizes and inspires ownership, responsibility and accountability. These leaders set the tone and instill in others the same courage and confidence.

A true safety leader demonstrates care and safe behaviors as a core value—regardless of business conditions or production priorities. As our senior vice president of global manufacturing, Tommy Joseph, often says, “We are encouraged by our progress, but we cannot be completely satisfied. We have more work to do.”


International Paper is now looking at safety differently. We are pointing the finger less and asking good questions to learn from each event. We are building a culture that is rooted in caring for our team members, contractors and visitors. We believe when we care, commit, engage, feel empowered, and strive for improvement, only then will we achieve our ultimate goal of being an injury-free workplace.

Fig. 2: How events occur. (Source: U.S. Department of Energy Human Performance
Improvement Handbook.)

As I begin my role as a safety ambassador with TAPPISAFE, I am committed to being a highly-engaged safety leader, and I want to share and learn from others. Not only do I want those who work for International Paper to go home safe at the end of each day, I want my peers and their teams to go home the same way.

Kirt Cuevas is vice president, environment, health and safety for International Paper, the world’s leading producer of pulp and paper. Cuevas also serves as safety ambassador for TAPPISAFE, a TAPPI program that offers a variety of courses developed by safety experts from our industry’s leading manufacturing, supplier, and contractor companies. Learn more at www.tappisafe.org.


Beginning in our March/April issue: Safety First

At Paper360°, we value the safety of our readers in their own mills, at their customers’ facilities, and at home. That is why we will be offering a new column titled Safety First, bringing readers tips, insights, and best practices from within the pulp, paper, and packaging industry. We will be working with TAPPISAFE (www.tappisafe.org), the Pulp and Paper Safety Association (www.ppsa.org), and suppliers and supporters throughout the industry to offer relevant content on safety topics. Look for Safety First near the front of every Paper360°, beginning in our March/April issue. To offer content suggestions and ideas, contact Jan Bottiglieri at [email protected]; to learn about sponsorship opportunities, contact Shane Holt at [email protected].

B&D Industrial Improves Oversight of Safety Orientation

Since 1947, B&D has been an independently-owned provider of industrial products and services to mining, manufacturing, engineering, and OEM companies. B&D Industrial is the corporate umbrella for three specialized divisions: B&D Technologies, B&D Service, and Scale Systems.

Russ Klingemier, the company’s director of safety, stated that the traditional safety orientation programs have provided less than satisfactory options. Many of the programs had “shortcuts” that allowed employees to pass the test without viewing the whole orientation. For that reason, they felt that they needed to oversee the orientations in the office, to ensure each student viewed the entire orientation.


Once Klingemier and the company’s assistant safety director, Ross Yearwood, became aware of the TAPPISAFE Program, they were quickly convinced of its ability to provide a more efficient safety orientation platform. For new B&D employees, the TAPPISAFE Basic Orientation proves to be a solid awareness safety orientation. The TAPPISAFE courses do not allow the student to “fast forward” through the orientation materials, as other programs permitted.

In addition, contractors and employees enjoy having one orientation resource that centralizes the training, testing, and reporting. Also, running reports and managing certificates is much easier for both the contractors and the B&D team with the TAPPISAFE platform.

Results include:

  • B&D has increased confidence in the process. TAPPISAFE has changed the procedures by creating a more thorough and challenging orientation process. Ultimately, B&D has a higher confidence level in the safety orientation of their employees.
  • Employees love having one orientation source. The orientation is easier for employees to track and it saves them time. Each employee has a TAPPISAFE badge that lists all valid orientations, eliminating the need for them to carry 20-30 safety cards.
  • TAPPISAFE consolidates the reporting process. Both B&D and its employees can easily identify where and when safety orientations are required. Reports are easy to produce. There are no delays in creating proof of training for each employee to carry until the TAPPISAFE badges are received.
  • TAPPISAFE reduces overall training costs. Instead of an orientation expense of US$20 per site, TAPPISAFE’s Basic Orientation costs just US$27.50, which certifies B&E employees for ALL sites that use the TAPPISAFE program and verifies that they have taken awareness-level safety orientation. Individual site orientation becomes a much shorter and more economical course (only US$10 per site). Depending on the number of sites, the TAPPISAFE program can represent a savings of more than 40 percent.

The B&D Safety team and their employees have found the TAPPISAFE Program to be a much smoother system for all involved.