Innovation in Safety

View the current list of good safety practices shared by APA member-manufacturers: Good Safety Practices.

2022 Award Winners

Tolko Industries Ltd.Tolko Industries Ltd. – Armstrong Plywood Division, Armstrong, British Columbia
Equipment-Based Innovation in Safety Award Winner: Veneer Load Marking Robot

Historically, dry veneer stacks at the Armstrong Plywood division were marked by hand using an aerosol paint can, posing potential safety hazards to the marking attendant. The division’s superintendents were determined to find a solution that improved the safety and efficiency of this process. Various ideas were considered; however, the team decided the best way to improve safety was through automation. As no commercial options were available to carry out the specific task, the team took matters into their own hands and built the robot in-house.

A water-based ink spray tool was strategically affixed to a general-purpose Epson 6-axis robot, which was then carefully programmed and installed in an existing guarded area. In addition to removing potential safety hazards, the robot also eliminated the use of aerosol paint cans, improved marking accuracy, reduced GHG emissions and delivered cost benefits through the switch. Efforts to replicate this device and process change are in place for the other stackers in the division as well as for Tolko’s other veneer-based locations.


Boise Cascade logoBoise Cascade Wood Products, LLC – Alexandria EWP, Lena, Louisiana
Jeff Wagner Process-Based Innovation Winner: New Hire Mentorship Program

Motivated to find a way to enhance efficiency of the new hire onboarding and training program and overall safety, the Alexandria EWP team developed an innovative approach for training new hires. The program puts new hires with mentors, ensures uniform training and outlines weekly milestones throughout a new employee’s probationary period. Training includes appropriate use of equipment and proper lockout tagout procedures and is concluded with a one-on-one interview to ensure complete comprehension. Since implementation, the mill noted a 50% decline in recordables and a 27% decline in overall injuries.


2021 Award Winners

Tolko Industries Ltd.The Equipment-Based Innovation in Safety Award went to Tolko Industries Ltd. in Athabasca, Alberta, for its innovation The Pink Panther. The masterminds behind the invention were a small team of maintenance employees at Tolko’s Athabasca OSB plant driven to develop a safer solution for testing hydraulic cylinders. This new testing bench consists of a platform, frame and cap whereby a cylinder is hoisted onto the bench and the cap is pinned in place. The cylinder is then pressurized with a portable hydraulic ENERPAC to test seal integrity.

Once built, the team asked their supervisor what color the bench should be painted. The supervisor said, “I don’t have a preference... you can paint it pink if you want!” The team decided pink was the perfect color and the bench earned the name “The Pink Panther.” Since implementation, The Pink Panther has reduced the frequency of seal failures, hydraulic oil fires and subsequent injury risks associated with removing and rebuilding press cylinders.

The Jeff Wagner Process-Based Innovation winner was Tolko Industries Ltd. in Armstrong, British Columbia, for its Area Based Lockout Matrix Program. The idea for the innovation came after employee concerns grew over discretionary lockouts and inconsistent lockout training and practices. The Armstrong Plywood Joint Health and Safety Committee identified an opportunity to improve lockout training, spearheading the idea to create an entirely new lockout system.

The final lockout system is an area-based lockout matrix that includes four different elements: a schematic of the equipment with color-coded lockout areas, a legend to locate isolation points, procedures for de-energizing and re-energizing equipment and isolations necessary to safely work in color-coded areas. The program defined a clear lockout standard and system to guide the company’s training and competency program. As a result of the new training, workers developed a thorough understanding of equipment components, energy sources and isolation devices. The new system also eliminated subjectivity and discretion from worker lockouts.


2020 Award Winners

LP-Resolute Engineered Wood logoLP-Resolute Engineered Wood, Larouche, Quebec:
Equipment-Based Innovation Winner: Miniature Nester

After a close call with I-joist manipulation at the rework station, the team chief envisioned a simple and compact leverage concept. The I-joist bundles that came from the rework station had been manually nested, as there was no automatic nester. Fortunately, there were no serious incidents, but hazards remained. Deep depth I-joists can weigh 200 pounds or more.
The Miniature Nester is placed on the I-joist bundle and leveraged to raise the I-joist into the proper location. This innovation has eliminated crushing and entrapment hazards to employee hands in the manipulation process. Operators are now completely outside operations, resulting in zero contact between hands and I-joists. The first tests took place in June 2020, and after conclusive tests, the mill implemented the tool, and positive results were seen immediately. Since implementation, there have been zero related incidents reported.


Boise Cascade logo Boise Casccade Company, Thorsby, Alabama:
Jeff Wagner Process-Based Innovation Winner: Lock-Out Simulator Training Board

The innovation was sparked by the vision of the plant’s safety committee to build a lock-out training board to help new-hire team members understand how to control risks associated with energy sources.
The board is powered through a 120v system and is programmable, allowing the trainer to simulate different scenarios. Each lock-out point has a hidden switch, which is connected to a programmable logic controller. During the verification phase of the lock-out procedure, the control panel will show any mistakes made by a team member when the test button is pressed. The Lock-Out Simulator Training Board was put into effect June 2020 and is now being used for new-hire training, to teach employees where to stand to help minimize the safety impact should an arc flash occur and for supervisors to complete annual refresher training.

2019 Award Winners

LP-Resolute Engineered Wood logoLP-Resolute Engineered Wood, Larouche, Quebec:
Equipment-Based Innovation Winner: I-Joist Clamp for Web to Flange Separation

Submitted by Jessica Dubois-Martel, Quality and Logistic Manager
During the production of I-joists, flanges on the leading end can separate from the web at the outfeed of the assembly process before moving into a curing oven. Prior to the development of this tool, mill staff would repair the joist using a long stick or piece of lumber, but this placed staff in a position that could lead to hand injury or long-term ergonomic issues.
This tool was developed to allow for the “clamping” of the flange back onto the web at a safe distance from the conveyor and oncoming joists using leverage instead of force. Its design allows for staff to easily convert from one joist depth to another with a simple pin at the hinge spot.


Roseburg logoRoseburg Forest Products Company, Coquille, Oregon:
Jeff Wagner Process-Based Innovation Winner: Laser Walkway

Submitted by Ben Nelson, Safety Technician
Pedestrian-forklift congestion is an ongoing concern at almost any manufacturing site. A team was established to identify specific areas of concern and devised a plan to reduce or eliminate the risks in these areas. The team decided that the best course of action was to use laser walkway markers at several locations. Typically, paint has been used to mark the designated walkways, but these marks required constant repainting due to continual forklift traffic. Use of the lasers has eliminated this ongoing maintenance item.
The lasers and associated flashing lights and/or stoplights are activated by push buttons on either side of the walkway or by use of photo eyes. The lights are placed on a timer that allows adequate time for pedestrians to traverse the path, but not an excessive amount to make forklift operators complacent with the laser’s presence. As a result, pedestrians keep better to the designated path and mobile equipment operators' awareness of occupied paths is heightened.

2018 Award Winners

LP-Resolute Engineered Wood logoLP-Resolute Engineered Wood, Larouche, Quebec:
Equipment-Based Innovation Winner: Sheet Metal Storage System

Submitted by Jessica Dubois-Martel, Quality Manager
The goal was to create a system that allowed a worker to manipulate sheet metal with minimal manual lifting and handling. The new system stores metal vertically rather than by stacking horizontally, eliminating fall and hand crushing hazards. A highly maneuverable motorized trolley and hoist retrieves and transports the material to its destination without blocking pedestrian areas. The project has reduced the number of hazards for entrapment, increased productivity and minimized the safety risks for the activity.


Roseburg logoRoseburg Forest Products Company, Coquille, Oregon:
Jeff Wagner Process-Based Innovation Winner: Safe Driver Process

Based on a number of near misses between truck drivers and mobile equipment operators, the team at Roseburg developed a Safe Driver Process. It erected small buildings at each of three load/unload sites on the property. These structures, equipped with heat and air conditioning to keep drivers comfortable while they wait, each feature weight sensitive mats connected to flashing lights to let the forklift drivers involved in the load process know that the truck driver is out of their work area.
The safe driver shacks have led to a reduction in near misses between truck drivers and forklift operators as well as increased communication and safety awareness.

2017 Award Winners

Boise Cascade logoBoise Cascade, Medford, Oregon:
Equipment-Based Innovation Winner: Belt Hold-Down

Submitted by Chris Lawrence, Region Safety Manager
This innovation was inspired by an ongoing safety concern due to veneer and debris becoming airborne on the strip tray belts rather than following the decline of the waterfall belts. The Belt Hold-Down was designed to keep the veneer on the waterfall belts. It functions automatically and has a manual option for lockout and maintenance. This innovation has effectively eliminated the hazard of veneer and debris flying off of the affected tray. Boise Cascade reports that the improvements were apparent at once; the number of near misses, first aid only, and debris in eye incidents have been reduced.

Boise Cascade, Oakdale, Louisiana:Boise Cascade logo
Jeff Wagner Process-Based Innovation Winner: Splinter Reduction Video

Submitted by Roger Goss, Safety Coordinator
The Splinter Reduction Video was introduced in an effort to decrease the severity of splinter injuries by teaching proper pulling techniques at the dryer grader position. If an employee is observed pulling incorrectly, the employee is not only corrected, but is then required to view the training video to refresh and enforce proper pulling techniques.

Since its implementation in August 2015, data has shown a decrease in the number of splinter injuries and in the severity of the sliver injuries that do occur. No recordable incidents were caused by splinters in 2017.

2016 Award Winners

LP logoLP, Two Harbors, Minnesota:
Equipment-Based Innovation Winner: Saw Handling Articulating Arm

Submitted by Jon McDannold, Safety Manager
This innovation was created as a solution to a long-time safety concern: the changing of the saw line hog. Millwright Roger Walsberg decided to try a new solution for this concern and created the Saw Handling Articulating Arm. The mill and corporate requirements state that millwrights are not to lift anything over 50 pounds, despite the hogs being 75 pounds, with no mechanical means of handling them. 

The hog saw handling unit was created to carry the weight of the hog assembly without straining the employee using the equipment. By taking the lifting away from the employees, the potential for lifting injuries while performing this task have been eliminated.

RoyOMartin, Oakdale, Louisiana:RoyOMartin logo
Jeff Wagner Process-Based Innovation Winner: Safety Banners

Submitted by Robert Ryder, Safety Manager
The Safety Banners initiative was implemented with the intention to keep safety on the minds of employees throughout the day. The employee safety committee worked to create and purchase the banners with images of employees' children working in the mill environment with safety slogans to remind employees to always work safely. The banners were then hung throughout the mill, so employees always had on their mind exactly why they had to stay safe at work.

These banners not only served as visual reminders for employees to continue working safely, but also worked to boost morale and pride when parents and grandparents could bring their children and grandchildren to their place of work. These banners contributed to the mill's injury-free 2016.

2015 Award Winners

LP logoLP, Jasper, Texas:
Equipment-Based Innovation Winner: Secure Clamp for Saw Chain Lifting

Submitted by Ricky Franklin, Plant Manager
This innovation was inspired by an injury-free safety incident: while changing crosscut saw chains, a lifting sling broke, and the saw chains fell to the deck. Luckily, nobody was hurt at the time of the incident, but witnessing the fall inspired LP millwright Cruz Gonzales to create a device that would make the task of changing chains at the sawline safer.

The clamp was fabricated specifically to fit this chain and load-tested to 200 percent of the required load prior to its implementation in June of 2015. This device clamps securely to the chain and provides a proper connecting point for the lifting sling, eliminating the risk of cutting the sling. The mill’s staff members have found that the clamp, which firmly holds the chain in the proper position, has made changing chains safer and faster, too—an unexpected side benefit.

Boise Cascade, Kettle Falls, Washington:Boise Cascade logo
Jeff Wagner Process-Based Innovation Winner: Safety Performance Recognition Program

Submitted by Jim Berry, Safety Coordinator, NE Washington Region
The Safety Committee implemented a new program in 2015 that tied safety reporting to charitable contributions. The company agreed to donate 25 cents to a local charity for every quality safety observation form (“All-in-One” card) submitted by employees.

The program was a win-win for employees and the community, and proved to be both popular with employees and successful in acheiving its goals. Not only did employee participation in safety reporting more than double for the year, but the mill had a good safety record for 2015, reporting the second-lowest incident rate in 10 years. The community at large also benefitted from the program, with Boise Cascade distributing $5,300 in donations to charities in 2015. Local charities chosen include the Opie-Coxie Foundation, Casey McKern’s Pay It Forward Foundation, Colville Rotary Club-Tree of Sharing, and the Kettle Falls & Colville Food Bank.

2014 Award Winners

Weyerhaeuser, Grayling, Michigan:Weyerhaeuser logo
Equipment-Based Innovation Winner: Fire Hose Nozzle

Submitted by Kathi Moss, EH&S Manager
The Grayling Weyerhaeuser site’s entry, “Fire Hose Nozzle,” was selected to win the Equipment-Based Innovation in Safety award for 2014. The idea came from a site maintenance team member who is also a volunteer firefighter with the local fire department. Working with another maintenance team member and a local fabricator, they designed and implemented this tool. With this innovation, site fire brigade members or fire department responders can attach a hose to the nozzle unit which provides a steady flow of water to process equipment. Fire responders can set the desired spray pattern for the situation, put the unit in place, attach a hose, and douse the fire without putting responders in a high risk situation. This unit was fabricated in late 2013 and has been used to put out dryer system fires on January 21 and February 4, 2014.

LP, Wilmington, North Carolina:LP logo
Jeff Wagner Process-Based Innovation Winner: Pinch Point Safety

Submitted by Nicole Prince, Plant Safety Manager
The Wilmington LP site’s entry, “Pinch Point Safety,” was selected to win the Jeff Wagner Process-Based Innovation in Safety award for 2014. To make the mandatory safety training stick with employees, the maintenance department designed a special teaching tool for machine guarding training: a chain and sprocket, covered by a guard, run with a cordless drill. To illustrate the hazard, the hot dog was placed in the pinch point of the running chain and sprocket. This demonstrated to employees what would happen if a finger was taken in to a pinch point. The demonstration made a strong impression, as employees began recognizing hazards immediately afterwards and continued to talk about the training for months. As the result of this training, increased awareness and improved hazard has led to the addition of guards in various places throughout the plant.

2013 Award Winners

LP logoLP, Sagola, Michigan:
Equipment-Based Innovation Winner: Log Jam Pusher

Submitted by Bruce Pepin, Health and Safety Manager
The Sagola LP site’s entry, “Log Jam Pusher,” was selected to win the equipment-based Innovation in Safety award for 2013. The device was created over concern for operators’ safety while repositioning large or crooked logs that became stuck in the plant’s chain conveyance system. The former practice of using log-handling tools, such as pike poles, picks, or cant hooks, to physically reposition large, heavy logs was highly risky and had resulted in several injuries in years past. Prototyped and tested at the Sagola plant, this device uses the chain’s own mechanical force to reposition logs safely, without physical aid from the operator, and has proven to be a time-saver as well as a safety advancement.

Weyerhaeuser, Elkin, North Carolina:Weyerhaeuser logo
Process-Based Innovation Winner: Summer Safety Blitz

Submitted by Barry Cleary, Site Safety Team Chairperson
The Elkin Weyerhaeuser site’s “Summer Safety Blitz” program was selected to win the process-based Innovation in Safety award for 2013. The site typically experienced most of its safety issues during the summer vacation months, so the program focused on that specific time frame, kicking off in March and ending in October. It proved highly effective in involving staff in safety awareness through several avenues, including production of a “Summer Safety” video series starring mill employees, a March Madness hoop shoot and basketball goal giveaway incorporating safety themes, a summer safety cooler bag giveaway, and other activities popular with staff.

2012 Award Winner

RoyOMartin logoRoyOMartin, Oakdale, Louisiana:
Safety Mentor Program

Submitted by Robert Ryder, Safety Manager, Oakdale OSB
The RoyOMartin, Oakdale oriented strand board mill’s “Safety Mentor” program was selected from twenty-three entries to win the 2012 Innovation in Safety Award. The program was developed when it was recognized that the number of safety incidents experienced by new hires was greater than those of experienced team members. The Safety Mentor Program guides new team members through their first year of employment and covers various aspects of the organization, including safety orientation, policies and procedures, standard operating procedures, LOTO-Try, and core skills training. A safety mentor, who has demonstrated leadership abilities in safety and has no recordable incidents within five years, is assigned to each new team member and is accountable for ensuring that he/she receives proper safety orientation and training. The program was implemented last June and is already yielding positive results: safety audit participation by new team members has increased by 50 percent, while safety incidents among that group have decreased by 86 percent.

2011 Award Winner

Roseburg logoRoseburg Forest Products Co., Riddle, Oregon:
Glass Walls Program

Roseburg’s Riddle engineered wood products mill took the innovation prize for the implementation of the “Glass Walls” program. Every shift in every department has a cell lead that is responsible for monitoring safety, quality, delivery and cost information daily and briefing the rest of the crew through a “Report Out”. Safety is the first item of discussion at every Report Out, and each team member is encouraged to voice all safety concerns. Daily safety topics are also discussed. Along with the addition of mini safety audits, the Glass Wall program has significantly increased safety awareness and communication at the Riddle mill.

2010 Award Winner

GP logoGeorgia-Pacific Wood Products LLC, Camden, Texas:
STARS Card Program

Submitted by Lea Hawkins, Safety Manager
The STARS (Stop, Think And React Safely) Card Program is a behavior-based program that promotes interaction among the employees in an effort to correct hazardous practices and encourage safe behavior. Employees conduct a 10-15 minute observation of their co-worker(s) performing a task, note both safe and unsafe actions and/or conditions on the STARS card and give immediate feedback to their co-worker(s). The card’s data is analyzed to determine trends and to develop action plans to eliminate risk behaviors. During the four years the STARS Program has been in place at Georgia-Pacific’s Camden plant, the facility-wide incident rate has decreased from 2.12 to .33 and healthy communications among employees concerning both safe and unsafe practices have become the norm.

2009 Award Winner

LP logoLP, Tomahawk, Wisconsin:
Stringy Species Debarker and Conveyor System

Submitted by Tomahawk Safety Committee, Corey Myers, Safety Manager
The plant designed and deployed a special outside debarking and conveyor system for stringy bark species that mitigates debarker discharge plug ups and the ergonomic injury risks associated with clearing the raw material bottlenecks by hand.  The system also reduced conveyor plugs by 55 percent and the downtime associated with plugs by 57 percent.

2008 Award Winner

RoyOMartin logoRoyOMartin:
Winning with Wellness

Submitted by Mark DiCarlo, VP of Technical Services
Based on the premise that healthy and fit employees are also safer workers, the Winning with Wellness program is a proactive initiative that promotes healthy lifestyles and teaches employees to accept responsibility by setting personal health goals.  In the seven years the program has been in place, the company-wide incident rate decreased from 4.87 to 1.13, workers compensation claims dropped from 64 to 25, and the growth in cost of medical/pharmaceutical claims has been limited to 1% to 2% per year, as opposed to the national average of 10%.