Plant wins safety award again

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 18, 2001

Safety equates excellence at Hormel Foods Corp.

Friday, May 18, 2001

Safety equates excellence at Hormel Foods Corp., where the flagship Austin plant has won its fourth award in eight years.

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The Safety Excellence Award was presented to workers on all three shifts Thursday, when – what else? – Safety Excellence Day was celebrated at the plant.

All three shifts were served cake throughout the day, culminating with a ham – Cure 81, of course – dinner at night.

In addition, there were prize drawings to extend the positive reinforcement efforts of the company for the conscientious efforts at safety by Hormel Foods’ workers.

The benefits of a safe workplace are both personal and companywide.

Bob Christiansen, Austin plant safety director, told the safety and ergonomics committees’ members at an awards presentation Thursday afternoon in the Austin plant’s continuing improvement center that the word "team" means "Together Everyone Accomplishes More."

Jeff Nuytten, Austin plant manager, told day shift employees Thursday afternoon: "This is your award. You’ve earned this honor."

Christiansen explained the significance of the award.

"The Safety Excellence Award program was developed so the company could recognize those plants that truly achieve safety excellence," Christiansen said.

The program started in 1994 with the overall objective to promote a safe workplace and to increase safety awareness through the recognition of plants that meet or exceed safety goals.

According to Christiansen, the program evaluates safety performances in two areas: lost time injury incidents and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s recordable injury/illness rate.

The goals for 2000 were to achieve safety rates "well below the industry average," according to Christiansen.

Hormel Foods ended the year 2000 with companywide lost-time injury and OSHA recordable injury rates that were 35 percent and 60 percent, respectively, below the industry averages.

Christiansen noted when the program was started in 1994, none of the Hormel Foods production facilities met the requirements of the program.

However, since the inception of the program, the program’s goals were met by eight of 14 Hormel Foods facilities in 2000. That occurred despite the program’s goals being made more stringent.

The Austin plant has now won Safety Excellence Awards in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 2000.

Bill Snyder, vice president-refrigerated foods operations, said safety committees and employees "did a phenomenal job."

Because the Austin plant has such a large impact on the company’s performance, Snyder said the safety success "sets the mark and the tone for the whole company."

And, because the company’s safety results are better than the industry’s averages, Snyder said, "We really do lead the way."

Curt Rohrig, corporate manager of safety-security, noted the Austin plant earned two other prestigious safety awards in 2000 from the American Meat Institute and another award from AMI and the National Safety Council. He said the safety efforts at Hormel Foods facilities receive strong support from the corporation, which, in turn, has made the Hormel Foods’ safety efforts the envy of other companies.

Christiansen credited safety and ergonomics committees’ chairs with infusing workers with the program’s philosophy that "safety is a team effort."

Sam Skogeboe, days, and Kari Pollak, nights, are safety committee chairmen.

Richard Wuertz, mechanical division, and Lynn Esplan, meat products packaging-nights, are ergonomics committees’ chairmen.

Rohrig hinted another award could be forthcoming next year for the Austin plant.

Through the first four months of 2001, 12 of now-15 Hormel Foods facilities are on a pace to achieve safety goals for this year, including the flagship Austin plant.

Call Lee Bonorden at 434-2232 or e-mail him at