Equitable Food Initiative Recognizes 2023 National Safety Month

WASHINGTON – Equitable Food Initiative, the capacity-building and certification organization that partners with growers, farmworkers, retailers and consumer groups, is bringing attention to National Safety Month and encouraging fresh produce grower-shippers to ­­­­­prioritize worker engagement to drive workplace safety and improve the bottom line.

The National Safety Council first named June as National Safety Month in 1996 with the goal of encouraging workers and managers to look at how they can keep their workplace free from danger. The National Safety Council reports the total cost of work injuries in 2021 was $167 billion with a cost per worker of $1,080. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 100 farm-related accidents result in injury every day, costing the agricultural industry millions of dollars per year.

With the agricultural industry facing labor shortages, EFI is focusing on National Safety Month to underscore the opportunity to engage the 2.6 million U.S.-based farmworkers in strategies to increase safety, drive efficiencies and boost retention and recruitment. Studies have found that engaged workers deliver better customer service and quality, drive productivity and cost reductions, and reduce injuries. A study from Gallup found that employees who are less engaged are 64% more likely to have a safety incident.

“Workers are on the front lines, so they are the ones who know where policies might be getting overlooked or corners cut in ways that could lead to injury,” commented LeAnne Ruzzamenti, director of marketing and communications for EFI. “They are also best positioned to offer suggestions to make the workplace safer.”

EFI-certified farming operations that have engaged their employees in worker-management collaborative teams have implemented a range of worker-led safety initiatives. Teams have improved lighting in parking lots, access to drinking water, traffic flows and speed, ladder design, tractor use in the fields, air circulation in the packhouse, COVID protocols and sanitation. Teams also create repetitive motion injury prevention plans that introduce exercises and stretches to reduce muscle strain, apply ergonomics to repetitive motions, and ensure equipment is helping alleviate injury and strain.

“One of the easiest ways to begin engaging employees is to integrate worker voice into business improvements – whether regarding safety, productivity or quality,” Ruzzamenti added. “The hard part follows, where management must build trust by responding to and acting on worker suggestions and maintaining open and collaborative communication across the operation.”

EFI has helped form and train worker-management collaborative teams for 25 grower-shipper companies on more than 60 farming operations. Through the EFI certification program, more than 4,000 farmworkers and managers have been trained in problem-solving, communication and conflict resolution strategies, helping to improve labor and safety for more than 55,000 workers. To learn more about EFI certification, visit equitablefood.org.

About EFI

Equitable Food Initiative is a multistakeholder, nonprofit capacity-building and certification organization that works to improve the lives of farmworkers and drive business performance by integrating worker voice and engagement throughout the supply chain. EFI brings together growers, farmworkers, retailers and consumers to create assessment, training and organizational development programs that support continuous improvement and address the industry’s most pressing problems. Its unparalleled certification program sets standards for labor practices, food safety and pest management while engaging workers at all levels on the farm to produce Responsibly Grown, Farmworker Assured® fruits and vegetables. For more information about Equitable Food Initiative, visit equitablefood.org.

View a list of EFI-certified farms at equitablefood.org/farms.