WASHINGTON, DC — May 1, 2001 — A Food Marketing Institute (FMI) delegation met recently with U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao to describe the voluntary programs food retailers have undertaken to reduce worker injuries by one-third over the past decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The meeting occurred as Secretary Chao considers more effective measures to prevent ergonomics injuries than the rule that was repealed in March for being too costly and unworkable.

“Our industry has been at the forefront in developing programs to prevent worker injuries for many years — from the warehouse to the checkstand,” said FMI President and CEO Tim Hammonds, who led the delegation.

The secretary learned about industrywide efforts to redesign pallets and cases to reduce warehouse accidents, along with initiatives to reduce carton weights to prevent back injuries. In 1990, FMI formed an Ergonomics Task Force to explore the injuries that checkers experience — including those to the hands, wrists, arms and back — and how to prevent them.

FMI shared with Secretary Chao the many guides, manuals and training videos produced by the task force and other Institute initiatives. These include videos on deli, bakery and meat department safety and on safe lifting in distribution centers and supermarkets; a video-based training program on forklift safety; manuals suggesting how to make checkstands more ergonomically safe; and videos to teach cashiers proper scanning methods.

Representatives of FMI members SUPERVALU INC. and Wegmans Food Markets, Inc., described how their companies have reduced ergonomics injuries. Speaking for Wegmans was Manager of Insurance Richard H. White, and for SUPERVALU, Government Affairs Administrator Anika D. Hagenson, Risk Management Director Barbara B. Farrell and Corporate Risk Control Manager James L. Koskan.