The employees on the front lines of the food processing and sanitation business put their lives at risk every day to protect the quality and safety of every product that goes out the door. Protecting the safety of those hearts and minds should be a foundational priority.
Whether it be an internal employee or a contractor, the safety of every individual who steps foot inside a processing facility plays a critically important role in the overall success and safety of its operations. From a minor muscle strain injury, to a lost limb or even death in some cases, any injury inside a facility can have a significant impact.
OSHA logs and the resulting negative brand exposure, employee downtime and delayed production, increases in insurance premiums, and the significant time and resources needed around investigations are just a few of the costly issues related to workplace injury or illness incidents.
With a 60 percent higher rate of occupational injury and a lost-time injury rate more than twice as high, workplace injuries continue to be one of the most concerning and costly issues across the food processing industry. Sanitation work has even higher figures, given the nature of the work with dangerous chemicals and large, complex equipment in challenging environments.
That’s why it’s important for processors to have confidence in managing and overseeing the safety of their own team, but also finding partners who prioritize and value safety to protect the business at a higher level.
At PSSI, employee safety is not only a priority, but a core value of its business. The company is tenacious in its pursuit to protect the safety of its employees, as well as its partner’s employees in every plant it supports. PSSI has a safety team of more than 60 people, including former OSHA compliance representatives, division safety managers and technical service experts across the country, dedicated to supporting and advancing employee safety.
PSSI understands the significant risks associated with injury or illness inside of a partner facility. Its safety team works across all levels of its business and works closely with its partners to develop and enforce best-in-class safety programs.
“We take our jobs very seriously to protect the health and livelihood of our employees, as well as looking out for the safety of our partner’s employees,” said Jose Iduate, Senior Safety and Compliance Director for PSSI. “We treat our partner facilities as if they were our own and we work together to identify and correct safety hazards, mitigate potential safety issues and decrease the visibility with OSHA.”
To more aggressively combat the potential high costs and operational challenges associated with workplace injuries, PSSI uses a proactive, data-driven approach based on the Kaizen methodology. By definition, the Kaizen approach is based on the idea that small, ongoing positive changes can reap major improvements. Rather than large radical changes or top-down commands, it is based on collaboration and commitment.
This methodology is used to collect and analyze data from thousands of food processing plants across the country, all with unique environments, to determine the root cause of safety issues and identify the biggest exposures. The PSSI Safety Team uses that information to establish a set of new processes and engineering corrective actions for specific categories. These findings are applied as part of a FOCUS 30 program, where the company tests the new processes and corrective actions in 30 plants with highest recordables for incidents, severe injuries and lost productivity.
For example, PSSI recently implemented a FOCUS 30 effort based on data showing drain management and cover handling as a critical area for safety improvement. The team identified specific solutions, including new tools and gear that were needed to better protect employees from possible injury involving drains and cover handling. Then, new protocols and specific training were developed as part of a detailed correction action plan with employees across the FOCUS 30 plants.
As a result of this focused initiative, PSSI reported a 68 percent reduction in severe injuries and a 25 percent reduction in its OSHA recordable rate in 2018. 2019 is also off to a great start with an additional 12 percent reduction in its OSHA recordable rate from 2018 YTD.
“This is huge for PSSI, but more importantly for our industry,” said Todd Mitchell, Vice President of Safety for PSSI. “Small changes based on specific data findings can lead to radical change.”
As part of its dedication to protect the safety of all employees in the facilities the company services, PSSI’s Safety Team also provides free consultative services with all of its partners. The team regularly tours partner facilities to inspect potential safety improvements or hazards with guarding and other equipment hazards to make improvement recommendations.
“The better safety culture we create, the more success we see overflow into other areas of our partnerships,” said Rob Lowe, Senior Safety Director at PSSI.
Having a partner who values employee safety at the highest level will help to ensure quality and consistency in food safety and sanitation services, as well as improved productivity with less disruptions.