Revisiting the 9 Life-saving Golden Rules

On our journey in 2021 through the Life-saving Golden Rules, we shared the established basic rules that apply to every single employee, regardless of position or work area. Implementing the rules has brought an understanding to how operations – and even personal lives – can be impacted when we don’t take the time to stop and think before acting. Their importance is paramount to the health & safety of our teams.

We must remind ourselves to keep these rules top of mind and one way to do that is to reflect on the instances where our operations brought the Life-saving Golden Rules to the forefront.

Rule #1

I come to work fit for duty without being under the influence of alcohol, drugs and/or other substances that impair my ability to work

Mercer Stendal reminded us that impairment is not limited to substance abuse – it also ties into our overall state of being. If we are not getting enough sleep, are not eating enough certain foods, and are not feeling relaxed and energized, the affected state could be just as poor as someone who is inebriated. 

To combat this and protect their employees, Mercer Stendal has adjusted a number of items; including shortening shift times, providing a number of healthy food options in their canteen, and working with team members on creating a better work-life balance.

Rule #2

I never instruct an employee to perform work in an unsafe manner

Working on the Santanol plantations is not always an easy task. The mornings start early to avoid the harshest temperatures brought on by the Australian sunshine. Even then, the risk of dehydration, heat exhaustion and heatstroke runs quite high, so it is important to ensure that employees have access to shaded spaces, plenty of water, and air conditioning, with breaks encouraged in order to continue work safely.

Each of these measures was required when an employee began to show signs of heat exhaustion. To avoid the situation escalating into heatstroke, the employee was escorted by team members to an air-conditioned vehicle, told to rest and take slow sips of water to bring their internal temperature down before returning to work.

Rule #3

I never endanger the safety and health of others

To Mercer Celgar, following the Life-saving Golden Rule #3 is a choice and one that every employee at the pulp mill makes every day. To help us gain a better understanding of the choices that are made, we had the chance to hear directly from the Mercer Celgar employees on their responsibility to keep themselves and others safe.

Rule #4

I do not perform work in an obviously unsafe manner and immediately inform my supervisor

Stop, think, act – this is the safety motto for Mercer Timber Products in Friesau. Instilling this pattern into employees, to think before they act, goes a long way to avoiding potential danger at work and in the home, as almost all incidents or accidents happen due to human error and behaviours.

Last-minute risk assessments are a major tool used at MTP for risk prevention, prompting employees with questions to keep the safety of their tasks at the forefront of their minds. Toolbox talks and near-miss reporting are used as learning opportunities for all, debriefing on certain topics and incidents to discuss opportunities for improvement.

Rule #5

I only perform work that I am permitted to do, for which I am qualified and in which I have been instructed

When it comes to safety at Mercer Forestry Services, necessary training and qualifications apply to all areas. From the forests to our office spaces, proper procedures must take place. With a strong foundation of processes and procedures, open communication and growing experience ensures that training and qualifications will fall into place, providing a safe working environment.

When asked about performing safe work, MFS employees shared insights from their experiences – what has enabled them to perform their work safely and what causes even the most senior team member to pause and reassess.

Rule #6

I never knowingly take safety equipment out of operation or modify it without permission

It’s apparent that operating environments, such as the ones within Mercer, have many hazards and require risk management each day. Because of this, it is imperative that equipment and their surrounding processes remain intact.

Mercer Peace River experienced an instance requiring a moment to pause and review procedure after a hardwired pressure switch failure occurred on the pulp mill’s kiln. Following the Life-saving Golden Rule #6 provided the opportunity to successfully implement a temporary fix, allowing for the safe continuation of production.

Rule #7

I never consciously work without the necessary personal protective equipment or work permit, if this is required

Though our work takes place across many different environments – from offices and the mill floors to forests and the highway – the Life-saving Golden Rules apply to all team members. A common safety aspect for all environments is the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and knowing where and when to wear the proper equipment.

We asked employees from across the globe, in roles outside of production, to share how they feel when the situation calls for PPE. The common theme? That even though their day-to-day work doesn’t take place in the mills, their comfort level within the mill increases once wearing their PPE.

Rule #8

I report all accidents and incidents immediately

Mercer Holz has a unique position when it comes to safety at Mercer, as they get to observe and take part in the daily operations of our German mills due to the nature of their work. They take part in the same near-miss and incident reporting as our other operations do, benefitting from the same learnings.

One of the benefits that come with these learnings is giving our employees the courage to intervene. A proactive Mercer Holz employee, on-site at Mercer Timber Products in Friesau, intervened during a situation reported as a near-miss. This was not just for his own safety but for that of his Mercer Timber Products colleagues and fellow Mercer Holz drivers.

Rule #9

I only smoke in the designated areas

Though simple in nature, the Life-saving Golden Rule #9 is multi-faceted – a fact that Mercer Rosenthal is well aware of. The health & safety of our team members is the top priority at all of our operations and we cannot ignore the risks that smoking poses to both the health of our employees and to the safety of a fairly flammable working environment.

To ensure the safe operations of the mill, and to reach a compromise with employees, the pulp mill was able to reach a solution: smoking booths placed in key areas throughout the mill premises.


We were happy to hear these stories throughout 2021, as they show that our teams are taking the Life-saving Golden Rules seriously. We know they will continue to take the time to reflect on their procedures, their environment, and their actions to keep themselves and colleagues safe well into 2022 and beyond.