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Safety National Recognizes 2015 Safety First Grant Winner

Safety National® awarded John Tignor, Corporate Director of Health, Safety & Security at Smithfield Foods, Inc., with 2015’s Safety First Grant for presenting the most creative risk control solution related to an identifiable and quantified loss source.


As the largest pork producer in the world, Smithfield Foods identified a need to reduce potential injuries associated with the use of band saws in their in their large processing plant based out of Smithfield, Virginia that employs approximately 1,400 workers. Band saws are used extensively within the meat processing industry and have become a major contributor to serious injuries, including severe lacerations and amputations.

For nearly 10 years, Smithfield Foods has implemented efforts to eliminate the potential threat of injuries from saws through installation of robotic saws and replacing hand-fed band saws with belt-fed saws. However, due to the precision of cuts that must be made with some products, 100% elimination of hand-fed saws has not yet been achieved.


After researching options, it became clear to Smithfield Foods that the next step in reducing saw cuts and possible amputations is to install new technology from MAR Technologies called the BladeStop band saw. The BladeStop saw is designed to reduce risks of serious injury by mechanically stopping the band saw when the unit senses that a person has come in contact with the blade. Upon sensing contact with the operator, the blade stops operating within 15 milliseconds. This timing means the difference between having just a small skin cut requiring a bandage versus a severe laceration requiring stitches or even an amputation.

Smithfield Foods purchased one BladeStop band saw and tested it in its Smithfield, Virginia facility. After testing, Smithfield Foods determined that plant-wide installation of the BladeStop should be the next phase in their efforts to reduce the potential risks related to the use of hand-fed band saws.


Over the past three years, Smithfield Foods has spent approximately $159,000 towards injuries associated with band saws. The company believes that the BladeStop would have prevented each of the events leading to these incidents. According to John Tignor, “The real benefit of this project is the confidence that our employees, customers and others will have in our commitment to prevent injuries to our people.”

Smithfield Foods has developed a project to install five additional saws in their Smithfield, Virginia facility at a cost of approximately $416,000 in an effort to increase band saw operator safety and reduce horrific injuries, motivate workers and, ultimately, reduce production time lost to injuries, workers’ compensation costs and insurance premiums.

View a short demo of the BladeStop band saw