Living Our Principles – Ergonomics: Creating a Better Design

PlantPepperoniThe way we work every day has consequences on our health – both for employees working at a desk and in a plant. That’s why, at Hormel Foods, we have a team dedicated to ergonomics: the science of designing user interaction with equipment and workplaces to fit the user.

Injury prevention is the key focus of our ergonomics program, which we voluntarily implemented in 1987. Led by industrial engineers, today our ergonomics program consists of an active ergonomics committee at each plant. Each committee involves plant employees and management who meet on a monthly basis to discuss ergonomic-related challenges and to conduct ergonomic job assessments. These efforts have resulted in a year-over-year reduction in our ergonomic case incident rate.

In fact, in 2010, ergonomic injuries among Hormel Foods employees were 25 percent of total recordable injuries. That compares favorably to a 28.3 percent average for the United States according to Liberty Mutual’s 2010 report, which draws on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

We achieved these results by using on-site health care providers at our facilities to help identify ergonomic concerns early and address them through preventative techniques and physical therapy. We leverage their expertise in physiology to tailor workstations to the individual, and their software allows us to track and trend injuries and target improvements.

Refresher training is also conducted each year for our employees to raise awareness and inform them about opportunities to give feedback and get evaluations of their workstations. Each ergonomic team is comprised of at least 40 percent of employees who work in production areas because they best understand their jobs and workstations. Each plant’s ergonomics team conducts regular walkthroughs to get feedback from our employees, and our industrial engineers set aggressive goals for completion of ergonomics checklists and ergonomics job analyses on difficult jobs. Furthermore, our industrial engineers use customized software on handheld computers to prioritize job evaluations and analyze motions, postures and forces to design better tools and workstations at every plant.

In addition to our plants, we also work at our office locations to improve ergonomics. At our corporate office, we have conducted more than 100 ergonomic job analyses in the past four years, fitting workstations to our employees and receiving positive feedback about the changes.

Our goal is to continue to heighten employee awareness and education and to improve each employee’s workstation as well as improve overall company-wide ergonomic health.

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