Case Studies

Cargill Malt


Cargill is an international producer and marketer of food, agricultural, financial and industrial products and services. Founded in 1865, the privately held company employs 131,000 people in 66 countries.

Cargill Prairie Malt Limited is a producer and supplier of high quality Canadian Malt for domestic and international beer brewing customers. Prairie Malt Limited, located in Biggar, Saskatchewan, supplies top quality malt for beer production to a wide variety of domestic and international customers. The malt house has an annual capacity of 220,000 metric tonnes. The plant was built in 1977 and, in 1998 Cargill became a joint venture partner in Prairie Malt Limited.

Cargill Malt selected SafeStart to help address their corporate mandate for a zero injury culture. Sustainable change requires consistent commitment and long-term planning. Partnership with SafeStart is a clear demonstration of Cargill Malt’s investment in positive change. SafeStart emphasizes effective communication and communal responsibility for safety, the foundational elements of a progressive safety culture.

The human factor was recognized as a root cause of injury and Cargill wanted to minimize its impact. Brian Ellard, EHS Coordinator, commented that, “Everyone can relate to being injured, whether they are at work or not; they come to realize that their own actions contribute to being hurt.” SafeStart’s common sense approach to safety awareness appealed to the company.

SafeStart was implemented in conjunction with the observation and feedback process SafeTrack. After initial training, emphasis was placed on continuous observation; a methodology particularly suited to the work environment at Cargill Malt.


Cargill Malt


Removing “barriers” to safety

Initial SafeStart training was conducted on a monthly basis for each of the five core modules. Sessions for each module were conducted over the course of a month to accommodate shift work. Groups of 6 to 12 were the norm, as it is important to have enough people to share stories. Ongoing training is the responsibility of the safety coordinator and refresher training is conducted on an annual basis. About 95% of employees are trained to be observers. New employees are trained on SafeStart and SafeTrack. Refreshers focus on observations with a brief SafeStart review.

These mutually reinforcing initiatives were implemented to help better articulate the question: How are at-risk behaviors addressed to do the job safely? Or, in Brian Ellard’s words, “How are people communicating, how are “barriers” removed?” Used in relation to company safety standards and goals, the term “barriers” indicates areas where ineffective equipment or inefficient procedures present a risk to safety; a deceptively simple term that expresses the problem in language specific to Cargill, but that has universal relevance. The quality of any answer to the question of safety depends upon clear, concise, and non-punitive communication.


There have been no incidents involving discipline during an observation


A tool for prevention not punishment

Until a large number of observations were conducted, there was a great deal of skepticism. The first reaction was that SafeStart/SafeTrack would be used as a tool for disciplining people. Participation in the process of conducting observations revealed that the purpose was prevention of incidents. Implementation took place in 2008. Management and union employees were trained as observers. There have been no incidents involving discipline during an observation. This fact has been recognized by the union, as well as the importance of the programs as tools to prevent injuries.

The limited place of discipline is understood: “Employees have no problem with the process. They know they will not get each other in trouble. If discipline entered the observation, then there would be no success.”


Cargill Malt


Observation fosters communication

Formal observations promote communication and encourage informal discussion about hazards. Complacency is always a potential concern. With a view to this concern, employees conduct observations outside their typical areas to bring a fresh pair of eyes to a situation. Knowledge shared outside the daily routine encourages understanding about the overall processes of the plant. This method also helps combat frustration. Discussion of different areas of responsibility clarifies the purpose of company procedures and offers the opportunity to increase efficiency. Observations help communicate best practices.

Self-awareness and observational concepts are also of benefit during incident analysis. They offer the next step beyond regulatory compliance. Cargill has incorporated elements from SafeStart and SafeTrack into their incident investigation to address human factors like fatigue and complacency.

In the case of both incident investigations and observations, not all recommendations for improvement can result in immediate action. The managerial group at Cargill Malt focuses on fixing those items that can be immediately addressed. Some situations are more difficult to resolve. If there is no immediate solution, that is communicated. Feedback is very important.

A prime example is ergonomic issues, which cannot always be fixed quickly. Ergonomics is a significant concern. Acknowledging the problem and presenting realistic timelines is the best alternative in the absence of an obvious and immediate solution.


It is about instilling a culture rather than instituting a mandatory process


Participation is the key to success

Success is based on culture and not isolated initiatives. Integrating SafeStart/SafeTrack concepts into incident reviews and incorporating this information into employee communications is important. Yearly refresher training is vital. Communicating the solutions to problems is essential. Success is all about buy-in and understanding, consistency and positive communication.

Observations are now a big part of the culture and Cargill wants to keep the concepts in the forefront of people’s minds. SafeStart posters hang in the control rooms and common areas of Cargill’s facilities. Posters are good but conversations are better. Employees have the right to refuse to be observed but everyone needs to conduct an observation. Globally, people are willing to be observed: among eleven plants worldwide, with four to five-hundred employees, observation has been refused less than a handful of times. It is about instilling a culture rather than instituting a mandatory process. Willing participants are much more effective than conscripts.


Cargill Malt


Surpassing standard goals

Brian Ellard , EHS Coordinator, Cargill Malt
Brian Ellard,
EHS Coordinator, Cargill Malt

As a business unit, every Cargill plant has standards and goals; at the end of the month, there is a calculation. Within the safety portion, specifically the Behavior Based Safety component, employee participation is targeted: 80% of the population needs to conduct at least 1 observation per month; 10% need to be “coached observations” (pairs), as a means of calibration, for quality assurance; and a minimum of 2 “barriers” are to be removed per month (i.e. trigger on States like Rushing, which can include avoiding using the incorrect tool for the job when attempting to save time; equipment design, PPE, and ergonomics are also important; however, it is equally important to instill a culture of safety awareness that focuses on identifying at-risk behaviors before an incident occurs.)The Biggar facility has requested monthly observations by all their employees, thus exceeding the targets mandated corporately. Everyone at the site is now actively taking responsibility for safety performance. This commitment is indicative of a desire to surpass corporate standards and establish a new standard of safety excellence.

Cargill facilities all over the world are using SafeStart and SafeTrack, many since 1999. We’re proud to share this success story from Canada, the country where SafeStart was created.

Cargill Malt Case Study

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