Taking the initiative in worker safety
A Deli Star production manager devises a better, safer smokehouse cart after a workplace injury.
When a workplace injury occurs, a company will look at the incident from every possible angle, determining what exactly went wrong and how to prevent it from happening again. In the case of Brett Hanvey, he took it upon himself to design a better solution after suffering an injury of his own.
Hanvey is a production supervisor at Deli Star Corp. in Fayetteville, Ill. He has worked for the company for three years, working in packaging, sanitation and as a cook/chill operator. In May of 2015, he injured his hand while gripping the side edges of a smokehouse cart.
“While I was recovering from my injury, I was determined to come up with a solution to assure this wouldn't happen to any of my friends or coworkers,” he explains. “One day, I was one-handedly cutting grass when inspiration hit me. Not soon thereafter, Push Pal was born.”
Hanvey says that the problem with carts is that they are designed with product in mind and not the people doing the pushing. Alternatives that he saw were not maneuverable and were costly. To help bring his concept to life, he enlisted the aid of a friend, Luke Rompel, to flesh out the design and build a prototype.
“Brett and I are close friends,” says Rompel, “and when he asked me for my help in developing the Push Pal, I saw an incredible opportunity to help better the food processing industry. When we finally saw the finished product in action, I knew we had found a way to help people.”
“Neither Luke nor I had any formal design experience prior to Push Pal,” Hanvey adds. “Between the two of us, we always seem to think we can find a simple solution to any problem we encounter. We knew we had something that legitimately addressed a problem, but we weren't sure if it was an isolated problem or an industry problem.”
The Push Pal safety handle features two round bar handles that place the operator’s hands away from the cart edges and a toggle switch that attaches the Push Pal to the cart’s center post or frame edges. It can be detached from a cart so as to not interfere with production flow and attached at a comfortable height for any employee. Hanvey proudly notes that a worker’s hands never have to touch a cart again.
The prototype was constructed out of electrical conduit. After getting some positive feedback from Deli Star, they made a version in stainless steel and tested it in the company’s facility. Hanvey presented the concept to the company’s safety committee, of which he is a member. Deli Star ended up buying four Push Pals to use in its facility, and the company has seen a decline in injuries and close calls after more than a year of usage.
Deli Star, a processor of deli meats and other items, is known for its innovative thinking. The company’s founder, Dr. Dan Siegel, is an inventor as well as a meat scientist. That creative attitude permeates the entire business, where team members are known for engineering their own processing solutions if they can’t find them otherwise.
"Brett took it upon himself to design and innovate the Push Pal on his own time,” says Mike Weber, director of operations for Deli Star. “The Push Pal increased safety for employees, and because we did not have to modify every cook cart, and it has saved Deli Star money.”
Hanvey is quick to credit his Deli Star colleagues for their support in his project. Weber gave constructive feedback on the Push Pal and helped him determine a price point. Dr. Siegel helped him navigate the patent process. Justin and Andrew Siegel, the company’s president and director of supply chain management, respectively, also lent their support to Hanvey through the process.
“It is our mission to foster an employee culture that not only promotes a collaborative workplace environment, but also encourages our employees to innovate to find solutions,” says Justin Siegel. “We are so proud of Brett for developing the Push Pal, and we hope his leadership will inspire other Deli Star employees to continue to be creative and think outside the box.”
Hanvey took his Push Pal concept to Fusion Tech Integrated. Based on the feedback of Dan Bentz, Fusion Tech’s general manager, he modified the design in order to fit more carts used within the industry. The Push Pal is now available through Fusion Tech, and has been sold to businesses in six states. For more information about it, visit www.ftiinc.org/pushpal.