Sanderson Farms Employee Wins Inaugural Aviation Safety Award

At Sanderson Farms, it’s not just our sales and profits that are taking flight to reach new heights and standards of operation, it’s also our standard for safety that has the company flying high. One Sanderson Farms employee, Jeff Borgelt, has set the bar high for safety standards in the aviation industry by winning the company’s inaugural aviation safety award.

“I was unaware that our safety committee had decided to create an annual department award, and I feel grateful and honored that they chose me as the first recipient,” said Borgelt. “It feels great to know the extra efforts were appreciated and did not go unnoticed.”

Sanderson Farms’ aviation safety award was created to recognize employees for outstanding contribution to the safe operation of the company’s flight department. The criteria for the award includes engagement in the company’s safety management system (SMS), participation in safety events such as training and investigations, identifying and implementing safety enhancements, as well as having zero safety accidents or incidents on record for the year. Although 2021 was the first time the aviation safety award was issued by the company, the award will be issued annually to deserving employees in the future.

“Throughout the 2021 year, Jeff was actively engaged in our SMS and presented safety topics in many department meetings,” said Don Treat, aircraft maintenance technician and department maintenance safety officer at Sanderson Farms. “His SMS application utilization was among the highest in the department, and he was a large contributor in many safety event investigations. Jeff also provided value to our SMS by participating in multiple safety training events in-person and creating videos to share through the digital platform.”

Beginning his career with Sanderson Farms as an aviation maintenance technician over 14 years ago, Borgelt currently serves as a senior aircraft maintenance technician for the company. Although winning an award was never in his plan when he set out to create a video training series, he did intend to create safety training videos that were personalized to the company’s specific operations while also adding an element of humor to keep the pursuit of continuous improvement enjoyable for viewers.

“The videos Jeff produced were engaging, meaningful and humorous,” said Ed Moore, chief pilot of safety at Sanderson Farms. “His on-camera persona maintained the viewer’s attention throughout all of his presentations. One of his videos is now utilized by our flight training vendor, Flight Safety International in Dallas, Texas, during their ground school and has received tremendous positive feedback from many of their clients.”

Often times, necessity is the mother of invention, and a particular challenge the aviation department was facing while training team members proved to be no exception to that rule. A portable and collapsible tow bar device housed on company aircraft for ground support while away from home was proving confusing for team members to assemble, so Borgelt and a co-worker came up with the idea to create a brief video demonstration of the device’s proper assembly and operation with his iPhone.

Little did he know, the video would be an instant department hit, sounding the call to make more training videos for various purposes including preparing for audits of their SMS. “Earlier this year, auditors representing one of the premier organizations in aviation safety, the International Business Aviation Council, took an in-depth look at Sanderson Farms’ flight department, and our department was recertified at the highest level attainable,” said Wesley Pickens, senior captain of safety and pilot safety officer for Sanderson Farms. “In a post-audit debrief, our auditors told us that Sanderson Farms stands among the very best flight departments they have audited. They also specifically noted how impressed they were with Jeff’s safety training videos. The entire flight department is proud to recognize Jeff for his achievements, and the Aviation Safety Committee looks forward to annually identifying other members of our team who distinguish themselves in such an exceptional manner.”

In his role within the aviation team, quality work and safety always come first, but for Borgelt, it’s the people that make the job special. “I love the family atmosphere of our department,” said Borgelt. “I’ve seen our department band together to help co-workers in the midst of crisis and suffering time after time. I work with an amazing group of professionals that are all top-tier talent in this career field. We have a great time working together, and while taking our jobs very seriously due to the critical safety requirements, we still find the balance of keeping it fun with no shortage of laughter.”