By: Eric Mittenthal
Last week I had the opportunity to attend our annual Worker Safety, Human Resources and the Environment Conference in Kansas City. The meeting is a gathering of industry leaders to share best practices and learn about the latest systems and strategies available in all three areas. It is also an opportunity to celebrate successes with the annual presentation of the Worker Safety and Environmental Recognition awards. Many of the successes the industry has achieved in these areas stem from AMI Board decision to make these issues non-competitive. By doing that, the Board encouraged a culture of cooperation and idea exchange. The fruits of those efforts are reflected in the awards presented last week.
Worker Safety Awards
This year 134 plants were honored with Worker Safety Awards including 30 who won the top Award of Honor. While a common outsider perception of the meat industry is one with poor worker safety standards, this could not be further from the truth. The reality is that worker safety is one of the industry’s true success stories. During the last 19 years, injury/illness rates in the U.S. meat industry have improved by nearly 80 percent and last year the industry reached its all-time best for non-fatal occupational injuries and illnesses. Overall the meat and poultry industry isn’t even one of the top 50 most dangerous occupations, ranking as safer than occupations such as newspaper publishing.
The AMI Foundation’s Environmental Recognition Awards honored 124 meat and poultry plants. The program is a is a four-tier, voluntary environmental management system toolbox, coupled with an awards program that ranges from simple to complex. In addition, eight plants were honored with environmental achievement awards in categories including Environmental Technology, Outreach and Training; Pollution Prevention; Resource Conservation; and Social and Economic Sustainability. These are won by companies that go beyond environmental compliance by designing and successfully implementing an innovative plant upgrade or environmental program.
Last year we spoke to environment and sustainability leaders from a variety of plants in the meat & poultry industry about the awards, their company programs, why environmental management systems are important and what it all means to consumers. It’s a great series of videos to watch if you are interested in steps the industry is taking on environmental management and sustainability.
One of my takeaways from the awards is the amount of pride the winners had for their achievements. It is clear that everyone in the room goes to great lengths to constantly improve their plants in these areas and their efforts deserve to be recognized as the industry success stories that they are.