Smithfield Foods BladeStop

For years, Smithfield has been working to minimise as many risks as possible to our meat processing workers, mainly through the introduction of belt-fed or robotic saws.

While we have been able to automate much of our operations, there are still some processes that require a human touch. Because hogs vary in shape and size, we need our employees to oversee certain cuts.

Thankfully, leading-edge technology has been developed to help reduce the risks inherent in hand-fed band saw work. Over the last few years, we have looked extensively at the latest technology and even invested in our own research and development initiatives to develop solutions that could help protect our workers from accidental saw injuries.

Over the past three years, Smithfield Foods has spent approximately $159,000 towards injuries associated with band saws. The company believes that the BladeStop would have prevented each of the events leading to these incidents.

In 2015, we started introducing BladeStop, a proprietary technology made by an Australian company that we believe to be one of the most innovative safety saw solutions available today. The BladeStop technology uses a sophisticated sensor system to quickly identify when the operator has come into contact with the saw. The saw is then mechanically shut down within 15 milliseconds of operator contact—a timeframe that can mean the difference between a minor cut and a potentially life-changing injury requiring stitches or even amputation. Smithfield worked extensively with the manufacturer to customise the saws to the particular needs of our facilities.

“Bandsaws have always been a big deal to me,” says John Tignor, corporate director of health, safety, and security. “We are constantly trying to figure out new solutions within our industry.” For Tignor, who has been in the industry for nearly 30 years and has overseen several of the saw safety and research and development initiatives at Smithfield, bandsaw injuries hit particularly close to home. “My dad lost his thumb in a saw injury in 1971, and every time I see him I think of that.”

For our implementation of BladeStop™, Smithfield won a $10,000 Safety First Grant, a matching grant program funding innovative safety solution, from the Safety National Casualty Corporation in 2015.

After testing one BladeStop™ saw in our Smithfield, Virginia, location, we ordered five additional saws for that facility. At a cost roughly twice that of traditional band saws, BladeStop saws can be cost-prohibitive on a large scale, but we intend to further expand the use of this technology in other Smithfield locations.

“The effective BladeStop™ technology used in our band saws has dramatically reduced safety risks and incidents,” says Parul Stevens, Smithfield’s vice president of risk management.

“I really like BladeStop™,” says Derrick H., a saw operator. “The saw requires a glove check and self-test, which reassures the operator that it is operating correctly. It’s a very good safety improvement.”

For our implementation of BladeStop™, Smithfield won a $10,000 Safety First Grant, a matching grant program funding innovative safety solution, from the Safety National Casualty Corporation in 2015.

“We were impressed with the innovative and impactful solution that was created by Smithfield to reduce risk of employee injury and subsequent workers’ compensation losses in its organisation,” says David Snodgrass, assistant vice president of risk control services at Safety National. “We believe that this technology has application beyond Smithfield and look forward to seeing how this can serve as a model for other businesses who face similar risks.”

Find out more information on the BladeStop Bandsaw technology for Meat Processing plants.

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