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Taylor Packing Earns High Marks for Safety

Photo by David Keeler

With an illness and injury rate 53 percent below the national average for meat processing plants, Wyalusing's Taylor Packing has again earned OSHA's prestigious designation as a VPP (Voluntary Protection Program) Star Site. OSHA officials presented the company with a plaque and flag at ceremonies yesterday. Taylor Packing employees and others are pictured with the flag that now flies over their workplace, honoring their commitment to safety.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has again certified Cargill Meat Solutions' Wyalusing Township facility as a "Star Site" in its Voluntary Protection Program and honored the company at a special flag ceremony yesterday, Sept. 8 at noon.

Marie Cassady, deputy regional administrator for OSHA, and Taylor Packing's safety and ergonomics manager, Eric Reynolds, headed Wednesday's ceremony.

Cassady told a group of Taylor Packing employees they should be proud of their safety record, which boasts an injury and illness rate far below the national average for meat plants. "The main thing that makes a Voluntary Protection Program plant different is the tremendous amount of employee commitment it takes to achieve this goal," Cassady said. Cassady also noted that the change in ownership of the Wyalusing Plant from the Taylor family to Cargill resulted in no reduction in the commitment to safety.

Cassady presented Reynolds and Mike Coleman, Taylor Beef Business Unit President, with a plaque and flag honoring the accomplishments of the facility.

OSHA's Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) promotes effective worksite-based safety and health. In the VPP, management, labor and OSHA establish cooperative relationships at workplaces that have implemented a comprehensive safety and health management system. Approval into VPP is OSHA's official recognition of the outstanding efforts of employers and employees who have achieved exemplary occupational safety and health.

The Wyalusing plant was first certified as an OSHA VPP participant in November 1999.

Taylor Packing is a Cargill Meat Solutions Company, the second largest beef producer in North America. The Wyalusing plant processes beef and beef by-products. The company employs 1,100 workers and has a total recordable injury and illness rate that is 53 percent below the national rate for the industry.

Mike Coleman recalled comments made by former owner Ken Taylor when the plant first was awarded VPP status. "It isn't the flag and it isn't the plaque, it's the process that keeps us focused on safety," Coleman said. He agreed that the plant's commitment to safety has not changed since Cargill became owner. "If anything, our attitude about safety has expanded since the ownership change," Coleman said. He also praised plant employees, whom he described as the "people who make this work on a day-to-day basis."

Eric Reynolds said Taylor Packing's VPP status points to the company's attitude about safety. "It's a statement to the public that this is how we feel about safety," Reynolds said.

Reynolds praised a number of employees whom he said were instrumental in obtaining VPP status. They included Bob Sickler, Julie Lynch, Erica Fenton, Bruce Priestner and Ian Chance. Chance spoke briefly about safety improvements in the shipping department.

The legislative underpinning for VPP is the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, which declares Congress's intent "to assure so far as possible every working man and woman in the nation safe and healthful working conditions and to preserve human resources by encouraging employers and employees in their efforts to reduce the number of occupational safety and health hazards at their places of employment, and to stimulate employers and employees to institute new and to perfect existing programs for providing safe and healthful working conditions."

The Star Program, designed for worksites with comprehensive, successful safety and health programs, is open to any industry and to companies with injury rates below their industry's national average. The Voluntary Protection Program is OSHA's premier recognition program designed to promote effective safety and health management by employers.

Alan Peterson, Cargill Meat Solutions Safety Manager, said that safety is something that doesn't stay the same. "You're either getting better or getting worse," he said. "VPP helps us move forward and get better."

Rick Clayton, also a Cargill Meat Solutions Safety Manager, said the Wyalusing plant has served as an example for other Cargill plants. "Taylor has been a tremendous addition to the Cargill family," he said. "This plant is an example of how to prevent employee injuries."

Gary Bright, Cargill's director of human resources, echoed Clayton's remarks about the Wyalusing plant. "Life is a learning journey and Cargill has a lot to learn from Taylor's VPP experience," he said. "The idea that big companies know it all is disproved by our relationship with Taylor."

Wednesday's program concluded outside the plant where the VPP flag was raised. In remarks during the flag raising, Plant Operations Manager Jerry Karczewski said the plant's VPP status is not an end but a milepost along the way. He said the VPP flag represents the Taylor employees' "desire and firm resolve to improve."

The average VPP worksite has a lost workday incidence rate 52 percent below the average for its industry. These sites typically do not start out with such low rates. Reductions in injuries and illnesses begin when the site commits to the VPP approach to safety and health management and the challenging VPP application process.

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