The process of producing a hearty steak is more complex than many may think. At Cargill’s beef processing facilities across the nation, producing cuts of meat requires many intricate steps, in the hands of an army of employees who work with surgical precision. For the more than 2,000 people who work at Cargill’s Friona, Texas, beef processing plant, this production choreography takes place five days-a-week, two shifts daily, resulting in nearly 1.6 billion pounds of nutritious, wholesome, flavorful beef annually for consumers to enjoy throughout the U.S. and abroad. The everyday duties performed by this “beef army” require training, skill focus and the understanding of the importance of the work they do to feed people. Many of the tasks at Friona involve the handling and cutting of large beef carcasses into smaller pieces by operating a variety of machinery, and using sharp, powerful tools and handheld knives, requiring safety at the plant to be a top priority.
Recently, the facility surpassed 10 million worker hours without a lost time accident—meaning no injuries to employees resulting in time away from their jobs since June 2013. While the company applauds this significant milestone, Cargill’s Friona beef plant employees aren’t fixated on this record—they’re aiming for greater achievements.
“While this milestone is undoubtedly an important cause for celebration at the plant, our focus isn’t on the 10 million hour mark—it’s on how we can continue to prevent a lost time injury from ever occurring,” said Jamin Phipps, general manager of Cargill’s Friona beef facility. “It is truly a facility-wide effort. Our employees are proud of the safety culture we’ve created, and continue to concentrate on an end-goal of preventing all lost time accidents. That approach has really driven our success.”
The commitment toward a zero-injury goal is deeply rooted throughout the plant. Managers consistently demonstrate safety leadership by sharing best practices, encouraging open conversation among all employees, and providing guidance as needed. Employees are empowered by safety committees, as well as teams that host roundtable discussions on safety issues, and inspect equipment daily. Safety leaders also take note of higher-risk tasks, and ensure appropriate training is completed, so all employees understand how essential safety is to their specific roles.
“When employees are working with machinery such as large saws and equipment with moving parts, they absolutely cannot become complacent,” explained Jase Irwin, environmental, health and safety (EHS) manager. “We take the appropriate measures to emphasize the importance of practicing correct equipment handling procedures, and also spotlight the safety precautions and steps that should be taken before and after operating the equipment. We’re fortunate to have a team that understands the risks at hand and works hard to protect each other on a daily basis. We all want to be able to go home to our families at the end of a shift in the same condition as when we arrived at work that day.”
Cargill’s Friona facility is one of six Cargill beef processing plants in the U.S. The Friona plant was established in 1968 and currently processes more than 4,500 cattle each day, distributing product across the nation and to 14 countries worldwide.