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Potlatch's Gwinn Lumber Mill Receives State Award for Outstanding Safety & Health Record

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

February 9, 2011 - Potlatch Corporation's Gwinn Lumber Mill received the Michigan Voluntary Protection Program (MVPP) Rising Star Award for workplace safety and health excellence today from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA). The MIOSHA program is part of the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth (DELEG).

"Potlatch's Gwinn Lumber Mill is to be commended for its exemplary commitment to workplace safety and health," said MIOSHA Director Doug Kalinowski. "We're honored to recognize every worker at the facility for their dedication to work safely while providing outstanding wood products in a sustainable environment."

MIOSHA Consultation Education and Training (CET) Division Acting Director Nella Davis-Ray presented the MVPP Rising Star Award to Chuck Paulsen (Lube Tech), Plant Wide Safety Team (PWST) Chairperson; Ernest Letson (Mobile Mechanic), PWST Former Chairperson; and David Ruokolainen (Maintenance Superintendent), PWST Vice Chairperson. Elected officials and MIOSHA representatives were on hand to recognize employees and management on their outstanding achievement.

"We are extremely pleased to receive this recognition for safety performance," said Gwinn Plant Manager Ron Salisbury. "Every employee at the Gwinn operation contributes to our success and we all share together in the pride that comes with receiving this award."

The Michigan Voluntary Protection Program (MVPP) Rising Star Award is given to companies that have an outstanding safety and health management system in place and have the desire and commitment to achieve the highest level, the Michigan Star Award. Only employers with the best safety and health programs are eligible for the MVPP Program.

"National VPP sites experience 60 to 80 percent less lost work day injuries than would be expected of an average site in their industry," said Davis-Ray. "Not only does the MVPP program significantly reduce injuries and illnesses - it also has a tremendous impact on the bottom line."

MVPP Rising Star sites must have incidence rates below the Michigan average for three years. The incidence rates at the Gwinn Lumber Mill are well below the industry average for their NAICS code 321113 − Sawmills. Their total case incidence rate (TCIR) was 2.5 in 2007, 2.1 in 2008, and 1.4 in 2009 − compared to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Michigan industry average of 7.7 in 2007, and 6.9 in 2008 and 2009. The total day's away/restricted cases (DART) rate was 2.5 in 2007, and 1.4 in 2008 and 2009 − compared to the BLS industry average of 3.9 in 2007, and 3.4 in 2008 and 2009.

The Gwinn Lumber Mill produces wood studs that are sold to lumber yards, wholesale distribution operations, and related retail operations.. The MIOSHA review team − Doug Kimmel, Team Leader and CET MVPP Specialist; John Bodnar, CET Safety Consultant; and Gregg Grubb, Senior Industrial Hygienist − conducted 17 formal and 20 informal interviews during the site visit.

The review team examined each of the required elements of their safety and health management system and found the majority to be consistent with MVPP standards. The review team recommended improvements in the areas of training, employee involvement and hazard prevention/control for the site to reach Star status. The facility has several goals to move them forward to Star recognition.

Potlatch has long maintained a strong commitment to environmental, health and safety and considers it an integral part of the company's business philosophy. Some of the Gwinn Lumber Mill's areas of excellence include: top management is active on the Plant Wide Safety Team (PWST) which performs quarterly audits; safety is built into the approval process for large capital projects; they have a review procedure for new products to determine their impact on the worksite; and Potlatch maintains a corporate EH&S hotline each employee can use to report safety concerns.

BEST PRACTICE EXAMPLE: Their "Buddy" System for lock-out/tag-out. The "Buddy" System was put into effect at the Gwinn Lumber Mill in 2006 as an additional verification step to ensure that in all instances the de-energizing of a process or piece of equipment was occurring and occurring correctly. The "Buddy" System is an additional step in ensuring nothing is missed or forgotten.

Potlatch is a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) with approximately 1.5 million acres of timberland in Arkansas, Idaho, and Minnesota. Potlatch, a verified forest practices leader, is committed to providing superior returns to stockholders through long-term stewardship of its forest resources. The company also conducts a land sales and development business and operates five wood products manufacturing facilities through its taxable REIT subsidiary. More information about Potlatch can be found on the company's website at
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