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Story | 04/27/2017 13:08:00 | 3 min Read time

Prevention of free-time accidents is part of responsible employer activity

One of UPM’s themes to support employees’ health and safety in 2016 was free-time accidents prevention. In one year, free-time accidents at UPM Plywood mills in Finland were reduced by half.

During last year, the absences due to free-time accidents at the UPM Plywood mills in Finland were reduced almost by six person-years. The absence day rate in 2015 due to free-time accidents was approximately 2500. Last year, there number was reduced close to 1400 days. The significant improvement was achieved through concrete actions and consistent communication.

”During the UPM Step Change in Safety in 2012─2014, we were able to reduce occupational accidents and injuries but free-time accidents stayed on the same level. By focusing on free-time accidents prevention, we want to state that accident is just as bad and painful no matter where it occurs,” says Jari Hassinen, Safety Manager, UPM Plywood. “Employee safety also outside working hours is part of responsible employer activity.”

For example, many free-time accidents result from home renovation projects. Employer can help in accident prevention by ensuring there are right kind of safety equipment, harnesses and tools with instructions available for renovations. In short, the safety standards from work are extended to apply free-time. To take this idea further, Safety Corner was established in every UPM Plywood mill in Finland. The initiative came through a safety idea competition. Employees can loan appropriate protective equipment and safety gear for their free-time renovations and projects. Safety Corners are centrally located, along popular passages at the mill, so they are easy to remember.

Employees and partners were also given safety calendars with monthly safety themes. Themes were encouraged to be discussed at home. Check lists for home safety were available for employees to recognize everyday safety factors, such as smothering blanket or non-slip protection on the stairs. To improve safety, the same method which has been used in reporting the work injuries and accidents appears to be efficient in preventing free-time accidents, too. The event, what has happened and why, is described on one slide with a suggestion how similar accidents can be prevented in future. Communications on accidents and accident prevention is also active.

On the way towards stable safety culture

“Employees have been mainly positive about the free-time accident prevention discussion with the employer. It is not employer’s mission to guard or command, but employer can support increasing safety. Taking care of employees’ safety also on free-time is part of world-class safety culture. Things do happen also outside the mill fences,” Hassinen says.

Step Change in Safety had effect on employees’ free-time choices, too. Hassinen tells that, according to the feedback received from the employees, using safety glasses and harnesses has increased on free-time projects. When asked about UPM Plywood mills in specific, Hassinen says the good results have been reached because of excellent co-operation in the whole Plywood front.

Free-time accident prevention has become a constant part of safety communications. “One year is a very short time to change attitudes, and we are aiming for stable safety culture,” Jari Hassinen summarizes.


Petra Niemi

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Main image: Safety calendar was illustrated by UPM Plywood employees' children and grandchildren. Drawing by Iida Päivinen, aged 10.