Taking care of business means taking care of each other through training, technology and best practices.
Team members in our processing plants use their hands every day—harvesting animals, cutting meat, packaging food and performing other manual tasks. Ensuring all of these tasks are done in the safest manner is our utmost priority. We are committed to improving the health and safety of our employees by setting bold goals, building strategic communication and training systems, creating a safety culture and rewarding safety excellence. Our efforts are enhanced by partnerships with third parties, such as nonprofits, unions, peer companies and regulatory groups that can strengthen our understanding of best practices.
Goals & Progress
We aspire to zero work-related injuries. Our goal is to reduce workplace injuries and illnesses by 10% year-over-year, using traditional Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) incident calculations. In FY2019, we reduced our total recordable incident rate by 15.7% compared to our FY2018 performance. However, we are deeply saddened to report a team member at our Amarillo facility was fatally injured in August 2019.
Our total recordable incident rate has decreased for the past four consecutive years. This progress has been the result of evolving our approach to health and safety from a compliance-based focus to one that incorporates behavior and engineering-based components of health and safety. Our strategy now more closely tracks, measures and analyzes team members’ behaviors and responses. When an incident occurs, we go straight to the source to collect data and analyze the root cause of an incident. This allows us to make informed decisions to better reduce health and safety exposures that team members encounter. Once we better understand why an incident occurred, our health and safety team along with operation leaders can create proactive solutions. In this way, we look at safety not as an event to which we must react, but rather as part of the process in which we conduct our everyday operations.
1AdvancePierre Foods, American Proteins Inc. and Tecumseh Poultry are included in FY2018 and FY2019 (not FY2017). Keystone Foods and international facilities are not included in the data.
A Safe Work Environment
Tyson Foods employs more than 600 health and safety team members who focus on safety training, safety audits, ergonomics, health care and more.
Our operations have had ergonomics programs since the late 1980s that continually explore ways to make production jobs easier. Program efforts include developing improvements in equipment, tools and processes to make jobs less physically demanding. 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. We also hold an annual ergonomics improvement competition, soliciting ideas from team members on how to improve safety. In FY2019, we tested new compression wear and robotics such as knife sharpeners, vacuum lifts and other technology to eliminate team member exposure to dangerous equipment. We continue to evaluate the effectiveness and the long-term benefits of these programs.
An additional way we help plant workers stay safe and healthy is with practices such as rotating team members between certain processing jobs to help prevent fatigue, ensuring production equipment is working properly and providing rest breaks. The timing and frequency of rest breaks for team members at our plants varies by 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, while others have two breaks of more than 20 minutes. Production supervisors are required to allow team members to leave the production line for restroom breaks.
In FY2019, we continued to find innovative ways to incorporate technology into safety programs:
- Tyson Fresh Meats piloted wearable analytics software at our Storm Lake, Iowa, facility. Team members wore devices that collected hand and wrist motion data as they worked, then analyzed the risks associated with their movements. The pilot revealed that most of the 24 team members who participated had room for improvement to reduce their risk of injury. In FY2020, the team will expand upon this pilot by evaluating team members in selected high-risk jobs to gather more data that will help us better understand how to reduce injuries.
- Tyson Fresh Meats also explored the use of virtual reality for safety training. A pilot program focused on general safety awareness, and we have begun to expand the technology into new areas to visually demonstrate when a team member is vulnerable to a hazard.
- In the Transportation group, we adopted smart valves, which allow drivers to overinflate a truck’s airbags to automatically raise a trailer’s dolly legs off the ground so that drivers do not have to strain to do so manually.
The drivers who transport our products across the country face a distinct set of risks that we continually work to address. We’ve expanded our use of rough textured coating on the steps and handles on both sides of all new trucks, helping to prevent slip and fall injuries, and introduced new technology to improve safety for our drivers, including antifatigue seats, automatic transmission, forward-facing monitors and lane assist. We’ve also permanently attached red load straps on all Tyson Foods-owned trailers, which prevents loads from shifting during transport and creating an unforeseen hazard when the trailer door is opened.
Bringing the Next Generation of
Manufacturing to Tyson Foods
Automation has been present in manufacturing environments for nearly half a century. But it’s been slower to take hold in food production, where unique demands for sorting and stacking of products have required human dexterity— until now.
The Tyson Manufacturing Automation Center (TMAC) is the culmination of more than $215 million in investments in automation and robotics over the last five years. The two-story, 26,000-square-foot facility opened in downtown Springdale in 2019 and will be a place to develop new automation solutions, collaborate across teams and with suppliers, and train team members on new technology. The facility has four main areas: a machine vision technology lab; a lab that simulates a food production environment; equipment training classrooms; and space for team members to train in automation and robotics technology.
TMAC was built for everyone at Tyson Foods. It’s a place where teams across the company can come and collaborate on solutions that we expect will improve efficiency, safety and product quality. In particular, we expect automation to help reduce the need for repetitive tasks that can result in injuries. TMAC’s hands-on environment will also achieve another important goal: inspiring the next generation of innovators to pursue opportunities in STEM. TMAC’s first collaboration is with Springdale’s Don Tyson School of Innovation. We provided funding to send the school’s robotics team to Dubai to compete in the FIRST Global Challenge, an annual international robotics competition.
Training & Communication
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. New team members receive awareness-level training regarding the health and safety hazards and procedures applicable to their jobs and work areas in their facility. Approximately 30 health and safety topics are discussed during this training. Managers in operations undergo regular training on processes and best practices, and we support their continual professional education and development.
Beyond formal training, communication is critical to ensuring that health and safety changes filter across the enterprise. We have a two-pronged approach to communication. We leverage our safety governance structure, which is led by an Executive Safety Council. This leadership team establishes enterprise safety programs and expectations, which then disseminate to plant safety councils and hourly safety committees. Health and safety governance processes are designed to align the executive team with what’s happening on the plant floor.
In addition to the governance structure, we leverage our technology capabilities to disseminate information quickly across the enterprise if needed. Our plants have safety committees that meet at least monthly, and at some sites more frequently, for roundtable discussions involving plant management and hourly team members.
An important way we reach team members is through our We Care safety program, which is designed to improve plant safety communications, awareness and practices. In FY2019, we continued to enhance the We Care program by establishing our first cohort of third-party-certified Exposure Reduction Coaches (ERCs). These ERCs, who train for 18 months, are dedicated to in-field coaching and one-on-one mentoring which is focused on developing the Plant Safety Council and plant leadership in understanding team member vulnerability to a hazard.
Valuing Team Members’ Voices
Our team members are important participants in driving a culture of safety at Tyson Foods. We leverage the insights of safety committees at all plants. Safety committees raise health and safety concerns to management and work collaboratively with them to create action plans and implement solutions. Committee members encourage safety awareness, promote team members’ interest in health and safety issues, engage them in safety initiatives and motivate others to follow safe work practices. Committees also help conduct workplace safety inspections and offer an additional avenue for team members to report safety hazards or concerns.
These committees include management and hourly team members representative of our workforce at each facility across job categories, genders and demographics. Language accommodations allow non-English-speaking team members to participate. We compensate team members for their time and allow free participation under our nonretaliation policy. We make reports from plant safety committees to all hourly team members and share them with management to ensure enterprise-wide communication about new or emerging safety issues in our plants.
Production line speeds in our plants follow U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) limits and vary based on stage of production, layout and capacity of a plant and number of workers available. Industrial engineers conduct studies to determine the number of people needed to safely yet effectively process certain product mixes, then set appropriate staffing for a production line. Safety is a key consideration, and team members may stop a production line at any time for worker or food safety issues, without fear of retaliation. Safety committee members help ensure team members feel comfortable asking for a line to be stopped when necessary.
Safety committees also encourage team members to report job-related injuries, regardless of their severity. We follow a systematic approach for the early reporting, intervention, evaluation and treatment of injuries and illnesses, and do not retaliate against team members for reporting.
Oversight & Recognition
Tyson Foods is committed to third-party auditing and regular reporting. We work with facilities to close recommendations highlighted in audits and share findings across the business. In addition, we publicly report our annual progress on injury, illness and retention rates. 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 raise awareness of key safety issues, promote continual improvement and recognize locations for making significant progress.