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2012 CEOs Who 'Get It'

February 1, 2012

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Jim Hannan

CEO & President
Georgia-Pacific

Why is safety a core value at your company?

Jim Hannan: Our vision is to create long-term value by striving for safety and health excellence while achieving an injury-free workplace. The culture we strive to create across the company is based on our 10 MBM Guiding Principles, which start with integrity and compliance. These guiding principles represent the things we believe in and care deeply about, so for us, safety is a shared value. We believe excellence in safety, along with excellence in environmental and compliance performance, must be present for a business to exist long-term.

How do you instill a sense of safety in your employees on an ongoing basis?

We are all in this together, and every one of us has a role to play. That means engagement in safety by every employee. For each of us, this requires that we understand and perform our roles in accordance with the many laws, regulations and internal compliance standards that apply; that we identify and take corrective actions when something isn’t right; and that we stop, think and ask for help if we don’t know.

For leaders, it goes beyond that. We expect leaders to demonstrate commitment by their actions, committing the necessary resources, removing barriers, ensuring risks are identified and managed, and leading efforts to continuously improve.

For example, if we ask employees to interact with equipment in an unsafe manner to achieve production targets instead of investing to improve reliability, then our actions don’t match our words, and we have little of hope of achieving our vision for safety and health excellence. We all must accept responsibility for our performance.

What is the biggest obstacle to safety in your workplace, and how do you work to overcome it?

Our biggest obstacle is what we don’t know – that is to say, risks we haven’t identified but that exist in our facilities, or those things we have become comfortable with because we have lived with them for a long time. This is one of the reasons our vision is to achieve excellence, not just meet the minimum compliance requirements that don’t necessarily address identifying and managing. Another obstacle is creating a culture that people are comfortable challenging when something doesn’t seem right or they are not sure. Without that constructive challenge, it is difficult to identify and deal with risk.

How important is off-the-job safety to your company’s overall safety program? What type of off-the-job safety program does your company offer to employees?

If safety is a shared value, then it should be important whether you are on the job or not. Practically, this means we incorporate education about risks away from work into our safety programs. As an example, in many of our facilities, employees voluntarily participate in SAFESTART programs to focus on safe conditions at work, home and the road.

Another approach is our wellness program, “Get Well Stay Well,” which encourages healthy lifestyle choices for our employees and their families. The program offers tools and resources to help employees and their families learn more about topics such as the 100-percent-covered preventive care through our company-sponsored health care plans; management of chronic diseases; and benefits of physical activity, good nutrition and tobacco cessation.

Describe your journey to becoming a CEO who “gets it.”

There is nothing that keeps me up at night more than the thought of having someone seriously injured or worse in one of our facilities. The reality is that all of us continue to learn and, with that, hopefully improve. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to visit with employees across our facilities and enjoy listening to them talk openly about safety and the opportunities we have to improve. Their passion is easy to get excited about. To me, when we started making that transition to safety as a shared value and stopped thinking about safety as one of our many priorities, I think that was a turning point, at least for me personally. We all know that priorities change, while values – the things we believe and care deeply about – don’t.

How does safety “pay” at your company?

Safety pays in many ways. First, all of us have a better quality of life. In addition, it’s no coincidence that the safest facilities tend to be better performers on all measures. These facilities deal with safety challenges by making real and sustainable improvements that often result in benefits to reliability, quality and efficiency. Finally, there are also real costs to people getting hurt – so preventing accidents before they can ever occur saves money.

How do you measure safety? What are the leading indicators that show you how safe you are, and where do you see room for improvement?

We measure safety through a number of leading and lagging indicators, recognizing that no one measure tells the whole story.

Leading indicators for Georgia-Pacific include safety observations, near-miss reporting, training and a number of other measures. The more important aspect is how we use these to learn. One area we are trying to improve is how we use these learning events to dig deeper to understand root causes so we can make the changes necessary to prevent accidents and injuries in the first place.

We also measure a number of lagging indicators to understand our performance. The incidents that form the basis of our lagging measures also are learning events. Of these, we focus more on measures of severity to help identify areas of risk and assess our improvement.

As one of the world’s leading manufacturers of tissue, pulp, paper, packaging, building products and related chemicals, Georgia-Pacific employs approximately 40,000 people at 300 facilities in North America, South America and Europe.

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