Sow Supervisor Ensures Safety Success

posted on Friday, April 29, 2022

“Safety is very important to me,” said Phillip Barncastle, a sow supervisor for Iowa Select Farms. “I take it very personally and set the expectations high for all my employees. We cannot run our daily operations if we are putting our team at risk. They need to feel safe every single day they come to work.”

In his role as a sow supervisor, Phillip is often tasked with addressing and overseeing safety protocols and concerns for his farms. He is proud of all of the farms under his supervision, but one that stands out when it comes to safety is the Jones Sow Farm near Murray, Iowa. Under Phillip’s leadership as well as the leadership of the farm’s manager, Larry Hartsook, Jones sow farm has received five years’ worth of safety awards.

A personal commitment to safety, accumulating countless safety awards, and holding co-workers accountable are all part of the norm at Iowa Select Farms. We are committed to maintaining a safe workplace for our employees by providing the appropriate safety tools and training for everyone, but our dedication for safety goes far beyond that. At Iowa Select Farms, safety is a foundational part of our culture.

Since implementing the safety program in 2014, there’s been a 60% increase in sites like Jones sow farm that have been recognized for excellent safety performance along with a 55% decrease in OSHA recordable injuries. This safety culture is one reason Iowa Select Farms was able to retain 75% of our workforce in 2021.

So, what’s the secret to fulfilling these high safety expectations? In his 15 years at Iowa Select Farms, Phillip has picked up quite a few good production practices that ensure safety success.

“One example is whenever a safety policy is updated or we get in new equipment, we always make sure to review the new procedure before we start the day,” he explained. “We want to identify areas of opportunity to ensure we correct any mistakes and avoid creating bad habits. Holding myself and others accountable creates an open and honest relationship within the farm. It allows for an open dialogue between employees and gives us opportunities to grow and become better.”

In addition to these on farm practices, Phillip has also learned that communication with company leadership is key.

“We really rely on our safety director, Eric Wiechmann,” he said. “Whenever we have an issue arise at the farm or certain equipment that isn’t working properly, we can trust he will take our feedback and make the appropriate changes. You can tell that Eric deeply cares for every employee’s safety, and that creates a domino effect throughout the management group and through the teams on farm.”

Even with all these tips and tricks, for Phillip, effective safety protocols really come back to one thing.

“Repetition, repetition, repetition,” said Phillip. “To create good safety habits, you must do it right repeatedly. When that happens, we create a safe work environment, and our employees not only do their jobs efficiently, but they also enjoy coming to work every day.”

phillip poses for a headshot