On a Monday morning this May, smoke spread across the sky of Lappeenranta due to a fire at the UPM Kaukas mill site. The Rescue Department of South Karelia received an alert early in the morning and the fire was quickly brought under control and no injuries were sustained.
“The staff was on top of the situation. They took firehoses and water cannons and dealt with the situation until the fire brigade arrived at the site,” says Tomi Töyrylä, Industrial Fire Chief Officer at the UPM Kaukas pulp mill.
When incidents occur, the most important thing is to get the situation under control, ensure that people are safe and prevent further damage. The nearby residents must also be informed in case of a major accident, and in such cases it is the rescue authority that defines the danger zone and deals with all communications.
The aftermath is just as important. After an incident an investigation must always occur, with the root causes and chain of events scrutinised according to UPM standards. Group representatives take part in the investigation in case of serious accidents and incidents, while external specialists are also involved when needed.
After each investigation all learnings will be widely shared within the UPM community.
“It is very important to recognise the root causes and learn from them. Corrective actions are taken to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future,” says Milja Immonen, Safety Manager at the UPM Kaukas pulp mill.
Kaukas’ on-site fire department ensures response times are kept to a minimum. Photo credit - UPM
Daily work on safety
The UPM Kaukas is a large industrial site, producing sawn timber, pulp, paper, biofuels and biochemicals, while there is also a research and development facility on the premises. All units have safety managers and their work is mostly preventative. Töyrylä and Immonen make sure that the fire and safety equipment of the pulp mill is in operational condition at all times. They also look after security and regularly spend time at the mill assisting other employees.
According to UPM’s approach to safety, all accidents and incidents can be prevented through continuous risk management and careful planning, which is why those involved prepare for any eventuality. For instance, the UPM Kaukas safety report contains action plans in case of large-scale incidents.
Learning is one way to increase work safety. The Kaukas mill has, among many other things, organised compressed air device and defibrillator training, as well as extinguishing workshops and regular co-operation with the local fire brigade.
“We have collaborated so closely with the emergency services that we already know each other very well,” says Töyrylä.
Safety is the responsibility of every employee at UPM. Photo credit – UPM
Safety and welfare go hand in hand
Work safety is an integral part of UPM’s daily business – not to mention being required by law. The aim of UPM’s safety regulations is to ensure a safe working environment for all employees and avoid every possible accident.
UPM has many safety standards, with six classified as life-saving. These include risk assessment, permission to work, mobile equipment and cranes, working at height, lock out-tag out and confined spaces. All employees, contractors and visitors must follow these standards and there are also additional instructions and correctives that differ from one location to another.
Immonen is adamant a safe work environment is something created together and that it is everyone’s responsibility. Each employee is obliged to address any grievances, act according to the rules and look after the safety equipment. It is also important to turn to a supervisor or a safety manager immediately when noticing a work hazard, or if there are any uncertainties concerning safety.
“It would be great if all employees understood that everyone can make a difference and that work safety starts with every person. Safety means caring for others. If there is a dangerous situation, then let’s help one another. We will, of course, also support all employees and line organisations whenever needed,” Immonen concludes.
Text: Laura Iisalo