This story is neither apocryphal nor transformative. It has no heroics or high drama. Instead, it's about how Archer's Poultry Farm has made a steady transition from unaware to aware, and used this new understanding to control hazards that otherwise put a business and its people at risk.
One of the indicators of the operation's commitment to health and safety is the matter-of-fact way in which Sherry Archer speaks about it. She speaks the same way about payroll and receivables. All three are her operational responsibilities, and she sees each as essential components in running the family business.
Sherry and her brother Stuart are the second generation of Archers to manage the business, a layer farm their father Doug began in 1946. Over the years, Archer's Poultry has grown its operational capacity substantially: the business now hatches three million chicks a year, operates a feed mill, and ships all its chicks and feed to egg producers.
Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS) consultant Fred Young says Stuart and Sherry Archer invest in their people the way they invest in other aspects of the business, whether it's modernizing a process or making it safer. "It's the way their father was," says Fred. "He built for the next generation. They're doing the same."
Fred has worked with both generations. "In the 1990s I began developing a solid relationship with Archer's Poultry. The agriculture sector wasn't yet covered by the Occupational Health and Safety Act so there was no safety legislation. Doug could have very easily just sent me on my way, but his attitude was, 'Well, tell me where you see any safety issues.' Like Sherry, he saw health and safety as part of managing a successful business."
As the operation's understanding of health and safety has grown, so has its relationship with WSPS. Fred Young has helped with everything from drafting their health and safety policy to delivering onsite WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System) and WHMIS train-the-trainer courses. Today Archer's Poultry has a safety program that is ever changing but always growing to meet the health and safety needs of their operation.
Fred views the family's health and safety initiatives as part of a broader commitment to building organizational capacity. "Not just in terms of productivity, but organizational capabilities. Managing WHMIS training in house is just one example of how the business is increasing its capabilities."
He supports this process by helping Sherry stay informed. "With the hatchery, the mill and the trucking, Archer's Poultry has diverse information needs, from MSDs to falls from heights. Like any other WSPS consultant, I send them what would be most valuable to them."
"Fred's been my go-to guy for 20 years," says Sherry. "You ask him a question, and he's so fast in getting you the answer. It provides great peace of mind. A few years ago we required some air sampling, and I called Fred. He brought in an industrial hygienist. Recently we had to have some air compressors in our shop inspected, and Fred sent me the regulatory requirements and suggested some next steps. Coming up on our to-do list is transitioning from WHMIS to GHS (Globally Harmonized System). Fred has already given us some information to help us prepare.”"
According to Fred, Sherry's to-do list typifies the management style at Archer's Poultry. "They've gone from what do I need to do, to what else can I do to make our workplace safer."
"As with any industry, in agriculture some owners and managers are aware, and some are not. WSPS offers information and resources that help anyone make decisions based on what the law says and what is best for their business."