G-P mill earns sixth safety award

Published 6:00 am Monday, December 16, 2002

MONTICELLO — Georgia-Pacific’s Monticello mill is settingrecords for safety, said corporation Chairman and Chief ExecutiveOfficer A.D. “Pete” Correll said Friday.

Correll visited the mill Friday to present the Chairman’s SafetyAward to Asa Hardison, senior vice president of containerboardmanufacturing and Monticello mill manager. It is the sixthconsecutive award won by the mill and recognizes employees forworking 500,000 consecutive safe hours without a recordableinjury.

“This is an exciting day for me,” Correll said. “I truly amvery, very proud of you all. This is a special occasion. No one’sever won six chairman’s awards before.”

Hardison said he was proud to accept the award for theemployees.

“I’m real happy with that,” he said, adding that the awardrecognizes 1.5 million hours without a time-stop injury andincludes more than 10 years of outages without an injury.

The award also represents what Correll said he knew all along:that the Monticello mill is the safest in the company, and since GPis the safest forest products company in the industry, that putsthe mill right at the top of the industry.

“This mill has always been a leader in everything,” Correllsaid. “We have one other mill which has earned four (safetyawards), but Monticello has always been the leader. You won thevery first award.”

However, Correll stressed the award itself was not important.What was important, he said, is what it respresents.

“There is nothing more important than safety,” he said. “Thesame teamwork it takes to stop hurting each other is the sameteamwork it takes to make money.”

Following the presentation, Correll fielded a few questions onthe state of the company from the employees. He joked several timesabout his health and his recovery from a heart attack about eightweeks ago.

Craig Bairfield asked about whether increasing medical costs andrecent tort reform legislation would affect medical benefits. Healso asked if they could expect to see an increase in benefits inthe near future.

“We’ve had very limited success (with that),” Correll said.

Citing the same reasons as Bairfield, the CEO said it wasdoubtful that medical benefits would be increasing soon. He pointedout that the company has absorbed 15-20 percent increases in healthcare costs to maintain the same levels they have now.

Lionel James, a maintenance supervisor, asked if the Republicanseizure of the House would have an impact on the mill’senvironmental programs.

“I don’t think there will be much change environmentally,”Correll said.

Asked later about civil suits involving asbestos, Correll saidthey may see some new legislation on that, but he didn’t expect itto have a major impact.

Another later question asked if the huge asbestos settlementsmade by Honeywell and others would affect GP. Correll said they didnot because those corporations were forced to make the settlementsas part of a bankruptcy deal, and GP is financially stable.

“We are nowhere near in danger of having a bankruptcy,” hesaid.

Since asbestos became an issue in 1986, Correll said, there havebeen more than 262,000 asbestos filings with the company. Thecompany has only 62,000 outstanding filings left, he said, and thecompany has earmarked a fund and put money into it to pay for thosefilings over the next decade.

Correll and Hardison toured the mill before and after thepresentation. Correll was impressed with the cleanliness of thefacility and the hospitality of the employees.

The Monticello mill employs 568 people and produces more than amillion tons of Kraft linerboard a year.