HELSINKI, Dec. 1, 2020 (Press Release) -The conversion of Stora Enso's Oulu paper mill into a packaging board mill is nearly completed. The project employs approximately 1,800 external workers in an area of 140 acres on two separate sites. In November, Covid-19 infections were detected among contractors working on the project. Everyone working at the mill site were asked to take a corona test, which, according to the local health authority, resulted in approximately 150 infections related to the mill project. Less than ten Stora Enso employees have been infected. Recent tests show a decline in number of infected people. New tests will be conducted for all non-infected persons working on the site, starting at the end of this week.
At Stora Enso, the safety of our employees and contractors is always our highest priority. In order to implement the extensive investment project in Oulu, precise instructions were made already in the early stages of the pandemic to prevent coronavirus infections. The work was divided into two different construction sites, one at the pulp mill and the other at the board mill. The work has been done in small groups, where physical contact between the different groups has been avoided according to a detailed shift and break schedule. The use of face masks has been required in accordance with the official instructions. Contract workers from outside of Finland have been tested according to Finnish regulations, meaning they need to have proof of a negative test from their home country that is no more than 72 hours old, and then be retested in Finland before arriving to the mill.
Despite all precautions, unfortunately several persons working on the mill’s investment project became infected towards end of November. In order to evaluate the situation, all those working at the Oulu mill were tested between 24th and 30th of November. During that time, more than 1,700 tests were performed by Stora Enso. In addition, some companies working in the project have also tested their own employees. According to the local health authority data, a total of about 150 infections related to the Oulu mill project were found, some of which were asymptomatic. The positive test results of the last few days have been clearly declining.
“Infections appear to be concentrated around the board machine site, where about 600 people have worked in different shifts and groups. People’s safety and stopping the virus from spreading is of utmost importance. We have required our subcontractors to provide clear and thorough guidance and monitoring regarding the compliance of their own employees’ quarantine regulations. It’s everybody’s responsibility to remain isolated and follow social distancing also after working hours,” says Stora Enso Oulu Mill’s director Juha Mäkimattila.
Stora Enso works closely with local health authorities and the city of Oulu. The entire personnel working at the mill will be re-tested and testing will be continued as needed. The health authority and the company has instructed the workers currently in quarantine that their work at the mill can only continue after a negative test result has been obtained and presented.
“We are doing everything we can to secure the situation, and aim to continue the project only in those areas where it is safe to continue working. It is a big exercise to conduct tests of nearly 2000 people, but it is necessary. The project is nearly completed, and the goal is to reduce the number of people working at the mill with about a thousand by Christmas”, says Mäkimattila.