Verso's Quinnesec Mill Receives Renewed MIOSHA Recognition of their Workplace Safety and Health Excellence

Contact: Mario L. Morrow 517-373-9280
Agency: Licensing and Regulatory Affairs

December 15, 2008 - Verso Paper Corp.'s Quinnesec Mill of Norway recently received renewal of its MVPP Star Award, the state's highest workplace safety and health award, from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA). The MIOSHA program is part of the Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Growth (DLEG).

"Verso is to be commended for its exemplary commitment to workplace safety and health. They have created a corporate culture where workplace safety and health is a top priority," said MIOSHA Director Doug Kalinowski. "The Quinnesec Mill has been a Michigan Star site since 2001 and recognizes that a safe workplace provides the foundation for a productive workplace."

MIOSHA established the Michigan Voluntary Protection Program (MVPP) program in 1996 to recognize employers actively working toward achieving excellence in workplace safety and health. Since 1999, Michigan has recognized 27 MVPP Star companies. This is the most prestigious safety and health award given in Michigan. The Quinnesec Mill first received MVPP Star approval on March 11, 2001, and was recertified on March 9, 2005. (The mill was originally part of International Paper.)

Both Quinnesec Mill Manager Mike Sussman and Safety Leader Boyd Morstad acknowledge that safety has always been very important at the mill. "Achievement of the MVPP certification confirms our long history of focusing on safety and provides positive recognition to all employees for their efforts," said Morstad.

"We have a history of operating in a safe manner and that remains a top priority, every day, for Verso Paper Corp. and the Quinnesec Mill. We are pleased and proud that state officials have once again recognized the outstanding efforts of our employees who make the Quinnesec Mill a safe workplace," said Sussman.

The Quinnesec Mill's incidence rate and lost work day rate are well below the Michigan average for their NAICS code 322121 − Paper (except newsprint) Mills. Their total case incidence rate (TCIR) was 2.3 in 2005, 1.4 in 2006, and 1.9 in 2007-compared to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) industry average of 3.7 in 2005, and 3.8 in 2006 and 2007. The total day's away/restricted cases (DART) rate was 0.7 in 2005 and 2006, and 0.9 in 2007-compared to the BLS industry average of 1.6 in 2005, and 2.0 in 2006 and 2007.

The Quinnesec Mill employs 475 workers and is considered a high-hazard operation. There are also temporary and contract employees on site. The MIOSHA review team consisted of Doug Kimmel, Team Leader and Safety Consultant; and Cindy Zastrow, M.S., Industrial Hygienist. During the review, the team conducted 17 informal and three formal interviews.

The Verso Quinnesec Mill has an exemplary safety and health record, and has exhibited outstanding leadership in recognizing that a comprehensive safety and health program is critical to successful businesses today. The team examined various elements of the safety and health management system, and found them to effectively address the scope and complexity of the hazards at the site.

Several changes and improvements have been made in their safety and health management system since their 2005 review, including: 

  • Safety Management - to improve the management of safety, site management was provided safety system training and front line leader training. 
  • Accountability - since the last reevaluation, additional emphasis has been placed on individual accountability for safety and health. 
  • Safety Gap Survey - was given to all mill employees in 2006, 2007, and 2008. The survey seeks input from employees about their ideas on how to improve safety and prevent injuries. 
  • Central Safety Committee (CSC) started in 2006 - A committee designed to handle the day to day mill-wide safety related decisions that were made by the mill lead team in the past. This is an employee led team. 
  • MySIMS - allows any employee to view outstanding corrective action(s) that have been assigned to them. SIMS (safety improvement management system) is the central database for corrective actions and follow-ups. 
  • Behavior Based Safety - the Focus Steering Team continues to oversee and guide this program. Pre-task checklists were introduced and began being used in May of 2006. 
  • Near miss - The near miss program has been expanded to allow for anonymous near miss reports since the last Reevaluation.

Verso is committed to providing safe and healthy workplaces for their employees while providing environmental stewardship that will ensure healthy and thriving communities for future generations. Three of Verso Paper's four mills have achieved Star status in the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP), which is a testament to their corporate dedication and commitment to health and safety excellence.

The Quinnesec Mill is a state-of-the-art facility that manufactures bleached hardwood kraft pulp and high-quality coated printing paper used in magazines and catalogs. The mill is capable of producing over 900 tons per day of coated freesheet paper for offset and rotogravure printing. On August 2, 2008, the Quinnesec Mill was certified to the ISO 14001:2004 environmental management system (EMS) standard.

Based in Memphis, Tennessee, Verso Paper Corp. is a leading North American producer of coated papers, including coated groundwood and coated freesheet, and supercalendered and specialty products. Verso's paper products are used primarily in media and marketing applications, including magazines, catalogs and commercial printing applications such as high-end advertising brochures, annual reports and direct-mail advertising. Additional information about Verso is available on our Web site at References to "Verso" or the "Company" mean Verso Paper Corp. and its consolidated subsidiaries unless otherwise expressly noted.

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