Mars Petcare in Fort Smith racked up another safety award Friday, becoming one of just 76 companies in Arkansas history to compile 3 million hours of work without a lost-time accident.
The pet food manufacturer of brands like Cesar, Sheba and Iams has worked six years to accumulate the hours for the safety award from the Arkansas Department of Labor. The employees accumulated 3 million work hours over without a lost day away from work due to a work-related injury or illness.
Over the past three years, Mars Petcare at 10000 Roberts Blvd. in Chaffee Crossing has invested $122 million and created 255 new jobs. There are now 315 employees operating five production lines with a sixth line is in the works, Mars Petcare Fort Smith Site Director Russ Hayes said.
The sixth line will call for an additional 60 employees. Hayes said Lee Sutherland, safety manager for Mars Petcare's Fort Smith facility, has had a "big impact on the safety culture" since joining the team a couple years ago. In that time they have developed the motto "One family, one mission, soaring to new heights."
"The vision begins with a family and to get to 3 million hours it takes a family," Hayes said, noting that even the contractors who welded the new lines together are considered in that family.
Fort Smith Mayor Sandy Sanders declared April 6, 2018, "Mars Petcare Day" as part of the safety award festivities and credited Tim Allen, CEO and president of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce for his part in recruiting Mars Petcare to Fort Smith when he worked for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.
Ralph Hudson, deputy director, Arkansas Department of Labor, called the 3 million hour mark a "significant milestone" and noted the state's recent reduction of worker's compensation insurance by 15.4 percent as an "attractive incentive to industry."
The number of fatalities at has dropped significantly in the past five years, Hudson said. There were six in the past fiscal year, and 37 in five years ago.
"Safety is the bottom line, so when companies see this it makes them think twice when looking at a state," Hudson said.
There are about 72,000 businesses in the state of Arkansas, Hudson added, so being among the 76 with a 3 million hour safety award puts Mars Petcare "among the elite." Mars Petcare has about 75,000 employees in over 50 countries.
U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, attended the safety award ceremony Friday and pointed at the company's safety culture as helping the economy as well as the worker's family. Womack also noted Mars Petcare's community volunteer projects with local organizations such as Sebastian County Humane Society, Next Step Homeless Services and Antioch Discovery Garden.