We aim to reduce injury and illness by 15% each year, so we continually strive for safer, healthier work environments. Recently, we began to expand our We Care safety program to all poultry locations. We Care includes the creation of an executive safety council and initiatives to improve safety communications, awareness and practices.
A team of team members dedicated to the safety of all team members
We employ almost 500 health and safety professionals in occupational safety, industrial hygiene, health care, ergonomics, process safety, loss prevention, transportation safety, and other specialists who serve in key health and safety roles at our corporate and plant locations. In addition, there are hundreds of hourly team members involved in safety and ergonomics committees and on plant emergency teams.
We practice and preach safety in more ways than one
Team members spend many hours each year training to work safely and to have a clear understanding of possible health and safety hazards related to their jobs. Our managers in operations train regularly throughout their career in health and safety processes and best practices and we support the continued professional education and development of our safety and health managers. New team members receive awareness-level training regarding the health and safety hazards and procedures applicable to most jobs and work areas in their facility. Approximately 30 health and safety topics are discussed during this training.
Our operations have had ergonomics programs since the late 1980s that are continually exploring ways to make production jobs easier. Their efforts include developing improvements in equipment, tools and processes to make jobs less physically demanding. Examples include changing the height of work stations, more space between workers and development of new or improved, ergonomically-designed tools. It’s not unusual for us to make changes in workstations, equipment or processes based on the feedback we receive from hourly team members who are part of one of our ergonomics committees.
As part of our workplace safety and health efforts, we rotate certain processing jobs and have done this for many years.
Frequent safety audits from plant and corporate safety and health professionals are essential parts of our continual improvement in workplace safety.
Each year, we honor locations that achieved specific measurable safety goals for the year. The awards help us reinforce our values of providing a safe workplace for our team members. Our award criteria bring awareness to this issue, promote continual improvement and recognize those locations for making significant progress in these areas.
We measure our health and safety performance using traditional Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) incident calculations. During fiscal 2014, we reduced our Total Recordable Incident Rate by 10.2 percent and our Days Away, Restricted and Transfer Rate by 13.1 percent, when compared to fiscal 2013. In Fiscal 2016, we reduced our Total OSHA Recordable Incident Rate by 19.4%, compared to Fiscal 2015.
The timing and frequency of rest breaks provided team members at our poultry plants varies due to several factors including the type of operation, state law requirements, and the preferences of the USDA inspectors and our team members. In general, some plants have one 30-minute unpaid break or more per shift, others have two breaks of more than 20 minutes. Our production supervisors are instructed to allow team members to leave the production line if they need to use the restroom.
If a team member gets hurt on the job, we request they report it, regardless of how minor they believe it to be. We do this because we believe in early intervention to reduce frequency and severity of injuries. We want workplace injuries and illnesses detected early so they can be immediately addressed. We follow a systematic approach for the early reporting, intervention, evaluation, and conservative treatment of injuries and illnesses. It begins with an initial evaluation by facility-based occupational health nurses and progresses through a series of steps, including medical provider referral when necessary.
Each plant has a maintenance team that works to ensure production equipment is working properly and safely. Workers are trained on the importance of properly sharpening the knives or scissors they use. In addition, the company has partnered with an outside vendor on the development of technology that enables us to measure the sharpness of knives and scissors.
There is no single line speed in a plant. The USDA limits line speed in the initial part of production, known as evisceration, and we operate within those limits. The rate in this area of the plant – which uses extensive automation – can vary depending on the type of USDA inspection system being used. In other parts of the plant, where additional processing and de-boning is performed, we determine the rate of production through analysis of multiple factors, including the layout and capacity of the plant, the type of product being processed and the number of people available to work. Appropriate staffing for a production line is set by industrial engineers who conduct studies to determine the number of people needed to safely, yet effectively process certain product mixes. Protecting the safety of our team members, as well the quality of our products, are key factors in establishing staffing levels.