Forestry work is demanding, with extended hours in harsh outdoor conditions and ever-present safety hazards. Sappi Forests (SF) owns and manages 388,000 hectares of land in two regions in South Africa. The plantations are widespread and mostly in rural areas. SF has 860 employees, and its operations are almost 90 percent outsourced to 76 private contractors, who employ almost 10,000 people.
Stop and Think Before You Act (STBA) is part of SF’s Risk Tolerance Mitigation strategy, aimed at achieving Sappi’s safety goal: Twice as safe by 2020. STBA is a four-year initiative to improve safety and eliminate fatalities in SF and its contractor businesses. STBA provides employees with a tool (process) that guides them to safe decisions and behavior.
SF has an unfortunate history of fatalities in the workplace. SF contractors’ safety performance forms part of Sappi’s safety statistics. The company holds them to the same standard as SF employees. Despite initiatives to improve safety, from 2015 to 2016, the number of fatalities increased from zero to six, and safety deteriorated to an unacceptable level. Injuries and fatalities occurred mainly in the contractor operations. The safety performance was unacceptable. In addition to the loss of life, the impact on business included loss of reputation (goodwill and trust) and financial loss (hiring cost of replacements, training costs, material damage, loss in production, investigation costs and investment in preventative activities), which resulted in a strained relationship between Sappi and its contractors.
To address the issue, SF appointed two leading international forestry safety experts (Forme Consulting Group and Metsä Group) to assess safety management in SF and its contractor businesses. The communication consultancy DevCom did an operational communication assessment to determine the impact of communication on safety.
The STBA communication team conducted research among the contractors and engaged employees to unpack safety and communication issues that were flagged in a 2016 employee engagement survey....
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