Gardein Fosters a Culture of Safety First

Gardein’s journey to safety excellence began when they decided that what happened on the plant floor needed to align with the company’s core values of putting people and the environment first.

“In the old days, the focus was on getting the case out the door,” said Plant Manager Craig Ogilvie. A health and safety system didn’t exist,” he said, so “we could basically make a massive change.” His leadership and focus on safety has made a difference. Five years ago, before Ogilvie came on board, the plant had 13 recordable injuries in a year. In 2018, they had only one lost day of work.

Ogilvie used to work at United Biscuits in the UK, where the saying, “Don’t risk it for a biscuit,” is part of the culture. He was surprised to find the worker mindset quite different in Canada. Here, he says, hierarchy is much more ingrained in the mind of workers, and they may do something they feel is unsafe just because their boss told them to. One of his challenges, he said, has been changing that culture, educating workers about how it is not only their right, but their responsibility to refuse unsafe work.

The “Zero Hurt” culture at Gardein is there to ensure every employee can come to work and leave in the same manner and to not get hurt in the workplace.

When Ogilvie came on board, Gardein’s OSSE journey had already begun, but to signify his commitment to the cause, he took the initiative to sign the BC Safety Charter. Some of the changes implemented at Gardein after engaging with the Alliance toward OSSE certification have been regular crew talks, a daily stretch, and townhalls about safety.

Workplace injuries and lost time cost a company so much more that taking the time to do things safely in the first place.

Ogilvie talks about a video they showed to the plant team called Shoelaces about a father who would always tie his daughter’s shoelaces. After workplace accident where his arm was amputated, the impact came across in that small but personal way for a father unable to tie his daughter’s shoelaces every morning. Ogilvie said that many of his team were tearing up after that video, and it really brought the point home that, “If they have an accident, it doesn’t only affect them, it affects their family, and it affects their coworkers.”

“The Alliance initially gave us a good benchmark,” says Ogilvie. Although Gardein receives resources and support from their new parent company, ConAgra, he says it is reassuring that the Alliance is there to fill any gaps or assist in areas where they might need extra help.

Part of putting safety first at the plant is giving operators the authority to stop a line. Even if it turns out that it was not necessary, they are never reprimanded for it. Ogilvie said he would much rather see production stop for a short time than somebody lose a limb. “I can explain case volume, but it’s hard to explain someone getting injured at work,” he says.

The policy now is for two people to lift a pallet instead of one person doing it on their own. Ogilvie says that when he sees safe behaviour on the floor he praises it. Those on his safety team are also given red helmets to wear on the floor so they are easily identified from the rest of the team.

A Safety rewards program called “Safe Acts” allows employees to be nominated and awarded a scratch card to win a prize of anywhere between a $10 gift card, a TV, or a day off work.

Ogilvie also credits the iAuditor app with streamlining the safety audit process so he can enter information and get sign-offs right on the floor.

At Gardein’s Richmond plant, it is apparent that safety is top of mind. Ogilvie has even made his team t-shirts with the acronym WINS, which stands for: We care for one another, Incidents are always preventable, Nothing we do is worth getting hurt over, and Safety is everyone’s responsibility. It seems the focus has paid off in consecutive years of increased sales and profit. As Ogilvie points out, workplace injuries and lost time cost a company so much more that
taking the time to do things safely in the first place.