Worker safety is a continuing challenge for the poultry processing industry, delegates at a presentation on worker safety considerations in equipment design, installation and operation, held at this year’s IPPE, held in Atlanta, Georgia. Attendees were reminded that it is hard to get employees trained, in part due to high staff turnover, and that most injuries occur during the first 90 days of employment. A contributing factor to this is that employees do not fully understand risk.

Worker safety needs to be considered from the earliest planning stages when designing a new chicken processing operation. Although health and safety professionals are not as involved as they should be during the early stage planning, they should be included even at the concept stage, said Tim Ward of Keystone Foods.

In addition to adhering to legal requirements and standards, a number of approaches can be considered when trying to reduce risk and improve worker safety. Where risk is concerned, for example, it could be eliminated, i.e. the hazard is physically removed, it could be substituted or replaced, engineering controls could be put in place to isolate the worker from the hazard, or the ways in which employees work could be changed. Additionally, workers can be provided with personnel protection equipment. 

An example of elimination, could be switching from manual to automated deboning. Manual deboning can be associated with elevated levels of carpal tunnel syndrome among operators. Switching to automated deboning, however, would eliminate the operation that leads to problem, and increase worker morale.