VANCOUVER, B.C. (News release) -- Mercer International Inc. is proud to have been recognized for excellence in three categories at the 2020 Canada's Safest Employer Awards (CSEA) virtual ceremony: President and CEO, David Gandossi as CEO of the Year, and Mercer Celgar for both Best Wellness and Psychological Safety Program and Canada's Safest Manufacturing Employer.
These three recognitions of excellence demonstrate a strong commitment to occupational workplace safety at Mercer: Leadership, Health and Wellness Programs, and Health and Safety Management Systems.
Canada's Safest Employers Awards celebrate companies across the nation for their exceptional safety culture and wellness practices. Finalists were selected following an open call for nominations to COS magazine's nationwide readership of 14,000 safety professionals. Winners were selected by an esteemed independent judging panel and revealed during a virtual awards gala on October 22.
Recognized for Excellence: CEO of the Year - David Gandossi
"To receive the recognition of excellence as CEO of the Year at Canada's Safest Employer Awards is an honour. From being nominated to becoming a finalist has been a humbling experience and one I don't take for granted," David Gandossi, President and CEO of Mercer International Inc.
When David Gandossi became Mercer's President and CEO in July 2015, he directed health and safety as "Strategy No. 1." This top objective came with tangible steps to eliminate workplace accidents. Mr. Gandossi personally solicited help from several CEOs in the industry who had demonstrated leadership in this area, as well as leading OHS consultants to develop a "Made-for-Mercer" solution including the "Road to Zero" program.
"We are successful in safety because of our people. I would like to thank all employees who have adopted health & safety as a core value and for incorporating these values into their day-to-day safety actions. We still have more work ahead of us, but I am confident that together we can reach our goal on the Road to Zero." David Gandossi, President and CEO of Mercer International Inc.
The Road to Zero program came to be after Mr. Gandossi engaged the world-class assistance of DuPont Sustainable Solutions (DSS) with the belief that zero workplace incidents were achievable. The Road to Zero was established as a path that all Mercer employees would be on together to eliminate incidents. This program is a carefully created structure defining health and safety standards, communication tools, and metrics focused on Mercer's cultural values, employee mindsets, and behaviours.
Recognized for Excellence: Best Wellness and Psychological Safety Program - Mercer Celgar
A healthy workplace is a productive workplace, and at Mercer Celgar, they have worked together to implement their vision that occupational health and safety must consider the 'whole health' needs of their people.
Whole health is the equal consideration of both the mental and physical health of the employees. To be alert and safe in the workplace, an employee needs to be well; however, at different stages of an employee's life, their mental and physical health may be compromised. It may make an employee or someone in their family not feel 'whole' and that's where Mercer Celgar excels.
Mercer Celgar has instituted multiple health and safety initiatives to assist their employees with their physical and mental health needs. They have provided employees with access to an onsite gym and physiotherapist, integrating both options to help with fitness. Their Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) enables all Celgar employees and their families to access a variety of services such as organizational wellness, assessments, outpatient and inpatient treatment, recovery management, return to work, and family support services customized to meet the needs of individuals. With 24/7 counselling and support services by phone, online and in-person, the EFAP is truly supportive. Leadership training is also a critical component of supporting employee needs, including Mental Health First Aid training.
Mercer Celgar is proud of its team's wellness programs which contributed to their CSEA recognition of Excellence in the category of Best Wellness and Psychological Safety Program.
Recognized for Excellence: Canada's Safest Manufacturing Employer - Mercer Celgar
Mercer Celgar also recognizes that safety management requires a commitment from all levels of the organization. From the creation of new safety programs and standards to the day-to-day housekeeping of the mill, every employee is a personal leader in keeping themselves and their fellow employees safe.
Canada's Safest Manufacturing Employer category is designed to recognize a manufacturer that can demonstrate an exemplary health and safety record. Mercer Celgar has worked hard to take care of the health and safety of anyone who has access to or works on or off their premises or facilities.
It is a collective team effort that includes the management team, with help from the Joint Occupational Health & Safety Committee (JOHSC) and the departmental Safety Captains, that helps keep Mercer Celgar safe. These groups are engaged, made up of dedicated employees, who contribute to the overall strategies and management of safety.
As an example, Mercer Celgar has an in-depth risk assessment program. Every worker, every day, must complete a Field Level Risk Assessment (FLRA), meaning a card is filled out to assess the immediate risk to the worker that day in the environment as it is. This is imperative: there are different risks to a worker conducting a task outside in January with 3 feet of snow compared to conducting the task in August when it's +32 degrees.
The FLRA also reviews a worker's mental health that day: Are they feeling fatigued? Distracted? These types of questions help a worker to think about other factors that could affect their ability to perform their task safely. If the residual risk is still moderate-high at the end of the FLRA, the worker must meet with their supervisor and a safety coordinator to conduct a Hazard Risk Assessment, which is a more in-depth risk assessment tool, with more team members involved to further reduce the risk.
Strong safety is about strong communications. Understanding that, in 2019, Mercer Celgar began conducting quarterly "Town Hall" meetings with Bill MacPherson, Managing Director.
The Town Halls are conducted in small groups in a relatively small venue, which allows employees to ask direct questions and receive real-time answers. The Town Hall meetings review all relevant information within the past 3 months, including safety, environment, production, or supply chain information. Because the Town Hall meetings are for the employees, providing them with the information they want and need is critical.
With COVID-19, the format of the meetings had to change to ensure employee safety, but the employee feedback prompted the continuation of Town Hall meetings with an alternate distanced delivery method. This meeting format increased engagement and has already proven to be invaluable and is something they will continue.
"We are proud of everyone at Mercer Celgar in being recognized for this award of excellence," said David Gandossi, President and CEO of Mercer International Inc. "By demonstrating a strong commitment to safety in business, instituting multiple health and safety initiatives that involved their people in safety programs, they have realized a high level of safety engagement." David Gandossi went on to say, "Mercer Celgar remains a leader in safety for all our Mercer operations. Congratulations to all of the finalists and winners of the many categories, and let us keep working together to keep our workplaces safe."
Thank you to the organizers, sponsors, and panellists for a successful, first-ever virtual Canada's Safest Employer Awards.