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OSI’s World-Class Talent Finds Innovative Solutions for Workplace Emergencies

August 14, 2019

It is hard to imagine putting out a fire without confronting an actual fire. It is also not instinctual to know the first thing to do if someone falls from a ladder in a warehouse. Without experiencing these safety emergencies, appropriately preparing for such situations can be difficult: Would workers know the proper way to extinguish different types of fires? Would an injured person know not to try to stand and risk further injury? Would that person stay put and shout for help if they were bleeding, perhaps wasting precious time that professionals would use to fasten a tourniquet, or would they be aware of the proper course of action?

Preparing for real emergencies and crises that can arise in a workplace is a challenge, as it is hard to give guidance and recommendations to employees without seeing how they would actually behave in a given situation. Marta Torres from the Human Resources department at OSI Food Solutions Spain had these same concerns. So she did some digging and found an innovative way to prepare her colleagues to be prepared to turn what could be their worst day on the job into just another day at the office.

OSI prides itself on being a business comprised of world-class talent. This kind of talent provides OSI with some of the best, most innovative solutions to age-old problems. Torres would wake up every day with a feeling that there had to be a better way to prepare her colleagues and friends should a fire break out in the office. She knew she could not actually start a fire in the office, so she found another solution.


According to the US-based, internationally-facing National Safety Council, a worker is injured on the job every seven seconds, which is equivalent to 4.6 million workers being injured on the job each year. The Council’s statistics also suggest that more than half that number comes from employees that are struck by an object and slips, trips and falls. However, both of those categories of injury are preventable, which creates additional opportunity for mitigation strategies.

Recognizing the importance of preparation for prevention, Torres sourced virtual reality (VR) headsets and software that replicates some of these safety scenarios. She knew that instead of watching videos and responding to comprehension quizzes, getting someone to experience the adrenaline and fear that comes with dealing with a fire or a fall, even on a smaller level, could reduce injuries and save lives.

For two days, 170 people in the OSI Spain poultry and beef processing facilities took turns with the VR headsets. Torres said most people, including herself, walked into the training during these health and safety days half-expecting to have a fun day filled with computer games, but they all left with a new perspective on what to do in times of stress.


One training had workers fight fires in three different scenarios: in a paper bin, an electrical fire and in a storage unit. Each situation required a different sequence of events to extinguish the fire and, most importantly, ensure the safety of others. If the people did not take the right steps to extinguish the flames, the fire grew. Sure, in the back of everyone’s mind they knew they could make the fire go away if they just removed the VR goggles, but no one did. In fact, Torres could not believe the learnings the team and the entire office took away from this exercise.

“There were people that I thought would be very calm and take the right steps with the fire and other exercises. I was surprised to see that I was wrong in some instances,” said Torres. “You could literally see people starting to sweat and feel the pressure of a growing fire right there in their own office. It was an eye-opening experience.”

Another training involved people working outside in a maintenance hall when suddenly they were trapped by a falling object. This is not a situation many people think about when they wake up and go to work in the morning. Unfortunately, this is a real workplace risk and something that needs to be addressed to ensure everyone’s safety.

The final training featured a more common scenario. It involved climbing a big ladder without wearing the necessary safety gear. This issue is more common than others because even the most careful, thoughtful workers can become victims of their own past success. It is easy to imagine people with decades of on-the-job experience beginning to feel that they are immune to injury in situations with low levels of risk. For example, perhaps something needs to be grabbed from the second shelf, so the person decides to take the two-second climb up the ladder to grab it. This may not seem like a high climb, but it is still one that has potential danger.

The VR headset replicated this scenario and then simulated what it would feel like to become disoriented and lose balance. Torres and the others agreed that this experience made them more aware of the hazards present in even the most routine tasks, including tasks that have been repeated thousands of times without an issue. And they agreed that they were better prepared for having gone through the VR scenario.

In addition to the somewhat lifelike experiences and the training and learning that was derived from them, Torres also wanted to bring something new and exciting to workplace safety training, which can sometimes feel like a chore. Because adrenaline and stress levels elevate in VR scenarios, participants were more engaged in the training, as opposed to watching videos, listening to speeches and reading text.


VR training is ideal for people who use their hands in their daily lives. The headsets create a more tangible experience from which to learn. This kind of experience is more relatable to working in a warehouse or storage facility where people are accustomed to seeing, smelling and touching things rather than reading about those same things in text.

“Using VR headsets for health and safety training isn’t something that is common at many companies, which is why it was so difficult for us to source this technology,” said Torres. “But it was worth the effort. The next time someone goes to step on a ladder, I am sure they will think about the training we had, be a little more careful and make sure to wear their protective gear.”


OSI globally has long been an active proponent of workplace safety. In 2018, OSI Food Solutions UK won an International Safety Award from the British Safety Council (BSC). This achievement marked the 12th time that particular plant had won a safety award from BSC. At the time, Ian Hurley, OSI’s safety, security and environmental manager said, “We were very proud to accept this award and once again be recognized for our commitment to high standards for health and safety by the British Safety Council.”

On the other side of the pond, the OSI plant in Oakland, Iowa (just outside of the Omaha, Nebraska metro area) earned a 2018 safety award with distinction, and was recognized as one of the area’s safest companies. This award recognizes the company’s 22 consecutive years of operating safely. The Nebraska Safest Company Awards were established to recognize and celebrate commendable safety programs in place at area companies. OSI has also received similar recognitions in Germany and Spain.

When it comes to health and safety, anything that gets people to pay closer attention – and remember the risks and steps to take when something goes wrong – should be explored. Lucky for OSI and the people that work in its poultry and beef facilities in Spain, the company makes a point to employ people that care about their jobs and colleagues, take their responsibilities seriously and aren’t afraid to try something new, even if it means making people sweat over virtual fires.

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