Doing Little Things Everyday Has Big Impact
“Doing the little things every day has a big impact,” said Caleb Lidtke, the manager of Thorsen Sow Farm. “We try to focus on that and know the rest will come. We ensure our employees are safe which builds good relationships and trust within the farm, and then the production performance follows. This has been a consistent trend for us over the last five years.”
Thorsen Sow Farm has a long-standing tradition of living out a culture of safety. In addition to earning many quarterly safety awards, Thorsen was one of the first farms in the entire company to be recognized for safety in eight consecutive quarters – that adds up to two years straight of meeting training requirements, promoting hazard awareness and eliminating controllable safety issues.
This culture of safety isn’t just the norm at Thorsen Sow; Caleb’s team is just one example of the many farms at Iowa Select Farms that demonstrate a daily commitment to maintaining a safe workplace.
“I am proud of what Caleb’s team has been able to accomplish and do,” said Eric Wiechmann, the director of safety at Iowa Select Farms. “Each and every year all our teams have grown and continue show improvement. That just shows how important safety is to our employees.”
Since implementing the safety program in 2014, continuous improvement has been the name of the game. In that time, there’s been a 60% increase in farm teams like Caleb’s that have been recognized for excellent safety performance with a 55% decrease in OSHA recordable injuries.
Caleb has seen a lot during his 12 years of experience at Iowa Select Farms. He began his career here in 2002 when he was in high school by working part-time. After graduating from college, he returned to the company in a full-time position in 2009, working his way up through the farrowing and breeding departments, giving him the experience to become a farm manager. Through all his different roles, there has always been an emphasis on safety.
“Managers I worked with early-on in my career really instilled the importance of safety in me and gave me good ideas that I still use today as the manager of this farm,” Caleb explained.
For example, the Thorsen team is consistently doing safety training and refreshers to ensure they communicate effectively and don’t get tripped up by small details.
“We always make sure to have team meetings every day to discuss what the plan is and how we are going to accomplish it,” said Caleb. “This is when we can address any safety issues or provides refreshers for the tasks at hand that day. We also have a weekly meeting dedicated to safety that everyone is involved in. It’s a way for us to make sure we are all on the same page and answer any questions.”
In addition to regular meetings, Caleb enforces the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and makes a point to always talk to Eric. In Eric's role as director of safety, he often has firsthand experience or knowledge about concerns Caleb says he wouldn’t have even considered. Because of this intentional communication, Eric has become very familiar with Caleb’s approach to safety.
“Caleb bought into the safety culture in his own way; he has a unique look on it,” said Eric. “He enjoyed the team he had and was very close with all of them, so he wanted to make sure they did everything right and no one in his work family got injured. That culture shows to this day when you walk in the farm. If you aren’t following the rules, he will let you know and explain why it is important that you do things the right way. That even applies to me as director of safety.”
It's clear Caleb’s dedication to safety has paid off, but all that wouldn’t be possible without the hard work and diligence of his entire team.
“Having a good routine, being efficient, not hurrying to get things done and sticking to the schedule are all important to safety,” said Caleb. “But what I think makes the biggest difference is creating a family culture. Everyone on the farm knows each other and gets along, and no one wants to see someone else get hurt. We are always looking out for each other.”