‘What a Safety Leader Looks Like’

When PPSA selected Carrie Andecover, safety and environmental/HR manager for WestRock’s recycle mill in Eaton, IN, as its Safety Leader of the Year, they were honoring a woman who had made a difference. Andecover received the award in 2020 for her performance in 2019. Described in her nomination as an example of “what a safety leader looks like,” Andecover was praised for her dedication to co-workers—especially during “these days of uncertainty amidst coronavirus and other giant obstacles.”

One of those obstacles was Andecover’s own early 2019 diagnosis of Stage 4 breast cancer. Today, she is in full remission, leading her site safety teams with even more vigor. She reinvigorated the safety committee by involving them in site efforts to continue reducing the potential for Life Changing Events (LCE) through initiatives focused on winder safety and pedestrian/PIT (Powered Industrial Trucks) interfaces—even as she battled her own discomfort.

Carrie Andecover, PPSA Safety Leader of the Year.

Andecover has worked in the pulp and paper industry for 29 years. Prior to her tenure at WestRock, which began in 2014, she held a variety of posts at Georgia-Pacific. Andecover holds a BS in Account Management, and recently graduated with honors from Columbia Southern University with a Master’s in Business Administration.

Here, Carrie Andecover shares her perspectives on the award and what “Safety Leadership” means to her.

“I joined the Eaton Mill team almost seven years ago and was the first female manager at the mill. I knew we could overcome any challenge if I took some time to learn the ins and outs of the team and culture. The Eaton Mill is in a small rural area between cornfields. I learned that several of the team members there were 2nd or 3rd generation papermakers and had a lot of pride in that fact. My goal was to quickly build a rapport with the team, demonstrate my commitment to them and convey the overall value of safety through engagement.

“Once we established what motivated the team, we were heading in the right direction.  We started playing ‘games’ around meeting safety targets; we created ‘Safety Basketball’ first, dividing the crews into teams. Once the game ended, we had new procedures written up, new Job Hazard Analyses (JHAs) completed, and a new way of seeing safety. I was thankful to be connecting with the team and had now earned the name of ‘Momma’ of the Eaton Mill.  They understood that I cared about each one of them; we had that trust relationship.

“In early 2019, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and everything happened so fast—biopsies, scans, surgery, and then chemo. Everyone was very supportive during this road bump in my life. I worked every day except treatment days; however, I was not allowed in the mill during active treatments, so I did my best managing safety from my office.

“This is when we got the safety committee established again to help with some corporate initiatives around Pedestrian/PIT interaction. The regional safety manager came to the mill to help walk-through and do the assessment in my absence. Once we had this assessment completed, the committee took off with what needed to get done. They took measurements, brought them back to me, and we got a drawing produced on what was needed. We then turned it over to the engineering/maintenance department to get it completed. 

“Though 2019 was challenging, we accomplished a lot. Now that I have my cancer behind me and I’m allowed back on the mill floor, we are picking up where we left off and moving forward.

“Safety Leadership starts with earning the respect of others. You must educate your teammates on ‘what’ we are doing and ‘why’ we are doing it this way.  Some teammates need more coaching, or what I call nurturing, to get them to jump on the safety train. Once you have earned that respect and trust, everything falls into place. 

“You must know what drives every individual, and you must act upon their abilities.  When you can have that conversation with team members and let that idea become their idea, you have the ‘golden ticket’ to success: total buy-in on what you are trying to accomplish.”