Nicolet College and Expera safety training partnership goes back decades

February 23, 2018

Nicolet College

The Northwoods River News

Jesse Button's top priority is to keep every employee safe while they're on the job at the Expera Specialty Solutions Rhinelander Paper Mill.

That's more than 500 employees, working three shifts, around the clock, 365 days a year.

To do that, Button, the mill's emergency response coordinator, is part of the team that offers up a steady stream of safety training for every employee, especially for the 37 members of the mill's Emergency Response Team.

"It's not like you can train them once and call it good," Button said in a press release about the program. "These are skills they will rarely, if ever, use. But if and when the time does come to respond, everyone needs to be sharp and on top of their game."

To keep up that high level of preparedness means a regular regime of refresher training on how to both prevent incidents and how to respond if they do occur.

Recently, 19 members of the team completed an intensive 50-hour training series offered through Nicolet College. Team members learned and practiced confined space rescue; how to rig fall protection when working at heights; how to rescue someone who has fallen and is left dangling; effectively handling hazardous material issues; and industrial firefighting training.

"We trained for five days, 10 hours a day. This type of training is extremely important," Button said.

The same training will be repeated in April for the remaining members of the Emergency Response Team.

For Mark England, Nicolet's safety and health outreach specialist, it was just another week in the office, which in his case is often an industrial plant, manufacturing facility or construction site.

Throughout the course of a year, England and his team of instructors will lead upwards of 30 safety training exercises throughout the Northwoods and beyond, providing training on a vast range of topics to 300 to 400 people annually.

"Just about everything we do is customized to the specific needs of the company," England said.

He noted the majority of the instruction is refresher training that is often mandated by OSHA for companies to remain in compliance.

"Much of the training focuses on maintaining competencies so the skills are there if they need them," England explained. "There's no question this requires diligence but this is at the core of workplace safety."

Even though Expera is located within minutes of the Rhinelander Fire Department and all of the fire and emergency services the department provides, the company has made the decision to have a well-trained Emergency Response Team on-site.

"When an incident does occur, the faster trained professionals are on the scene the better," Button stressed. "Every minute matters and a quick response can make a huge difference in how an event unfolds and how it ultimately turns out."

The recent training was the latest in the long history of the partnership between the mill and the college that goes back more than 25 years.

"It's always been an awesome experience to work with the Nicolet instructors," Button explained.

Combined, the five Nicolet safety instructors have 131 years of training experience.

"We've always found them to be top-notch and extremely knowledgeable. The many years of real-world experience that they bring to a class is simply invaluable," Button said.

For more information on safety training offered by Nicolet, visit or call the college at (715) 365-4600, 1-800-544-3039, ext. 4600; TTY 1-800-947-3529 or 711 relay.

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