THUNDER BAY -- It’s been more than four years since Shuniah Forest Products lost time to a workplace injury.
That’s the type of record that gets you noticed in the forest industry.
It earned the Highway 527 sawmill four safety awards, including the Lakehead Regional Safety Council’s safety award and a trio of trophies from Workplace Safety North.
The company took home a workplace excellence award, the small business award and the president’s award, the triple play a Northwestern Ontario first.
Jim Agombar, a skidder operator and member of Shuniah Forest Products’ safety committee, said the company’s dedication to safety came about 22 years ago, when a worker was run over on the job. He survived, but ever since they’ve made it their mandate to keep workers safe.
“This is quite the feat to have reached,” Agombar said.
“We’ve had our good years and our bad years. We’ve had our slips and falls and we’ve had our serious injuries. But we’ve learned from all that.”
Over the years the company has introduced reflective clothing for its employees, especially those working at night. They’ve added safety mechanisms to their wood chippers to ensure worker safety and they’ve led the way along the Thunder Bay Expressway, sparking better timing of traffic lights.
“We do safety audits every month,” Agombar said, addressing company staff.
“Sometimes it seems mundane. But it’s important to get out and speak to you.”
Mike Martel is a vice-president of forest product operations at Resolute Forest Products. His company does business locally with Shuniah Forest Products and one of his jobs is tracking safety records of companies they work with.
Martel said workers and management at Shuniah Forest Products should be proud of the achievements they’ve made.
“I can tell you there are a lot of companies that will look at you with envy knowing what you’ve achieved,” Martel said.
“This doesn’t happen by accident. It takes leadership.”
Also on hand for Friday’s award presentation was Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry Bill Mauro, who recalled near miss or two from his own days in the construction industry.
Mauro said as a whole Ontario’s workplace safety record has come a long way from those days, but there’s still room for improvement.
“It is key and it is incredibly important,” Mauro said.