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Safety is a priority at MFA

Programs and vigilance deliver results    

Traditionally, the new year is a time to reflect on goals for the next 12 months. In that spirit, I want to discuss MFA’s safety and security goals both for our employees and in the communities where we have facilities. Safety is an important aspect for any business, and it’s something we focus on at MFA.

Agriculture is an inherently dangerous industry. It consistently ranks among the most dangerous jobs in the United States. Modern technology continues to improve safety on the farm and for suppliers like MFA, but working in agriculture still includes long hours, heavy equipment, materials that require special handling and plenty of driving. Agriculture will never be accident-proof. Nothing is.

SHIELD blueBut I believe we should do everything in our power to make our operations as safe as they can be. That includes protecting both employees and our communities. For example, our facilities all have the necessary secondary containment for chemicals and fuel should the need arise.

Over the years, MFA has developed a number of safety programs. Each had its own successes and drawbacks. And as state and federal worker safety practices evolved, we’ve evolved with them.

In 2015, we launched what I would say is the most proactive safety program I’ve seen in my career. We call it by its acronym, SHIELD, for Safe Habits Improve Employees’ Lives Daily.

SHIELD is a behavior-based safety program, which means it combines employee-generated safety reporting with data analysis to give us an opportunity to improve workplace safety before incidents ever happen.

An essential aspect of the program is that we empower MFA employees to have daily conversations about safety. It isn’t a finger-pointing or discipline program. Instead, we ask every employee to engage in increasing awareness about safety.

Under SHIELD, employees are asked to enter their safety conversations in a database. We amalgamate that data and use it to spot trends in the company where unsafe practices may happen or where facilities or equipment may create barriers to safe work conditions.

By analyzing that data, we can identify situations or behaviors that lead to potential injuries. Those situations become our focus for training, or in the case of barriers, fixing them to permit safer operations.

For me, the ultimate measure of a safety program is that it helps keep employees from getting injured. I’m a believer in MFA’s core values, one of which is team spirit. What is team spirit? At MFA it’s the shared commitment to common goals based on open and honest communication. It’s showing concern and support for each other. It’s treating fellow employees like friends and family. That’s the underlying reason why we developed SHIELD. Any injury is a mark against our success.

Reality, though, isn’t always friendly in this business, and entities like insurance companies want a way to measure the reality of safety in the workplace. As a result, we have other ways to measure our success with SHIELD—our insurance premium modification rate or MOD.

MODs are affected by things like OSHA recordable incidents and lost work days. If a company’s MOD rate is 1.0, it pays the industry’s average rate. If the MOD rate is 1.3, it pays 30 percent more than the industry average. Similarly, if the MOD is 0.80, the company pays 20 percent less than the industry average. In 2013, MFA’s MOD rate was 1.4. By 2015, when SHIELD was implemented, it fell to 0.70 and is currently down to 0.42.

That means by industry standards, we have significantly improved over the past several years. But we want to improve more. It is our belief that employees should return home every day, maybe worn out from work, but in the same shape they were when they left. The exciting thing about SHIELD is the more data we collect, the more we can analyze it to find safer approaches to the work we do. That’s our goal for 2019.

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