Many food and beverage (F&B) plants are labor-intensive, with high potential for injuries and accidents. And when safety is a concern — when workers worry about being hurt — performance also suffers, as inattention damages quality, productivity, and reliability.
This Midwestern F&B company has facilities at each stage of the poultry supply chain — from hatchery operations/egg farms to poultry maturity to processing and packaging. Performance Solutions has assisted in all the company’s production environments.
The company contracted with Performance Solutions to improve safety. Bill Kelsey, a Performance Solutions practitioner, began the engagement by assessing a processing plant’s operations. This facility is small by industry standards, with approximately 400 employees processing 1 million chickens per week.
Hand injuries are common in F&B processing environments, from knives and cutting machines. At the same time, strains and sprain injuries were frequently reported in this plant, due to uncomfortable working positions and lifting requirements.
“Some people still put production and quality above safety,” says Kelsey. “But until you put a safety foundation in, and prove that you care for your people, nothing will improve in your plant. Safety is foundational because it proves to our people that we care about them, and that we care for their lives.”
Working with Performance Solutions Practitioners: The Performance Solutions plant assessment involves three phases over three days. The first phase is a plant-safety walkthrough, during which Kelsey looks for hazards, observes behavioral issues (e.g., someone reaching across a moving line), reviews recent audits, and explores conditions that contribute to an unsafe workplace. The second phase consists of interviews with 20 to 25 percent of plant employees (approximately 100 interviews in the Midwest plant), both management and hourly. The third phase is the “management path”.
In this plant — as in many F&B facilities — Kelsey started with an employee-driven safety-steering committee. The engagement involves teaching methods used by Milliken & Company, including how to use data and zero-loss analysis techniques to eliminate safety problems. The Performance Solution safety program focuses the plant on nine “safety immutables”:
Master planning at the corporate level with Performance Solutions helped to develop a company wide vision for improvement, and established specific targets for its poultry facilities. This effort also identified the kickoff plant (i.e., where Kelsey conducted the assessment). Alignment on these objectives at the plant level occurs via a “bootcamp” at the facility.
After the boot camp, managers identify, recruit, and empower production associates for an employee steering team, coached by management sponsors (two leaders selected by the steering team). Kelsey then returns four weeks after boot camp to train the steering team — and its management coaches. “The sponsors can’t lead the process or the steering team,” says Kelsey. “They serve as mentors and act as resources, such as advising about meeting dynamics or corporate policies.”
The team then sets its own safety targets in alignment with corporate objectives, but Kelsey encourages them to include a specific improvement: a 50 percent reduction in OSHA recordable injuries in the first year. Just as important, he helps the team determine and achieve safety goals that serve as leading indicators (rather than lagging indicators), such as audit results and employee attendance, morale, and participation in safety initiatives.