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AUSTIN EDITION - Hormel plant receives safety award

By Roxana Orellana

rorellana@postbulletin.com

The Hormel Foods Corp. plant in Austin decreased its injury and illness rates in 2003.

The plant received the company's Safety Excellence Award this morning. It was one of several plants receiving the award. Austin last received the award in 2000.

Each year all Hormel plants participate in the company program and must meet or exceed the goals set for involving lost-time injury rates and total Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards to win an award.

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The rates are calculated per 100 full-time employees working in a year. The 2003 rates came in at 10.6.

"It means a lot to win this award. It's been a few years since we won," said Jim Weiss, safety manager at the Austin plant.

Austin last received the award in 2000 when the rate was 11.0. The Austin plant also received the award in 1996, 1997 and 1998.

At the Austin plant, Weiss works with the both the safety and ergonomics committee facilitating programs.

"We subscribe to continuous improvement within safety programs ... our goal is to get zero rate. We want to think lower," he said.

Company officials say the rates leave room for improvement, which will take support and commitment from all employees.

The safety program was put in place in 1994 to annually recognize the safety achievements and raise safety awareness among all employees.

A year after the program started -- 1995 -- the Austin rate was 25.4. Since then, the rates have continued to decrease, according to company records.

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The company compares well to the overall industry, said Jeff Nuytten, general manager in Austin.

This morning, members of the safety and ergonomics committees and the plant management met with corporate officials to be recognized and receive the award.

The award was presented by Bill Snyder, vice-president of operations for refrigerated foods.

Members of the committees received jackets with the 2003 Hormel Foods Safety and Excellence Award logo.

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