Kurt Petermeyer, OSHA’s Region IV administrator, discussed the current Poultry Processing Regional Emphasis Program at the recent National Safety Conference for the Poultry Industry. While choosing not to recognize poultry’s steady improvement in workplace safety over several decades, Petermeyer said that poultry’s high incidence rates for serious injuries compared to all private industry and that increased scrutiny from workers’ rights groups such as Oxfam and the Southern Poverty Law Center prompted OSHA to develop this special emphasis on poultry. During a Q&A session, he fielded comments and questions from the attendees who remarked that OSHA’s view is an inaccurate portrayal of safety within the poultry industry.

The 2016 National Safety Conference for the Poultry Industry was a three-day event designed specifically for poultry facility and corporate safety personnel. A record 175-plus safety professionals attended the conference, which was sponsored by U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, the Agriculture Technology Research Program at the Georgia Tech Research Institute, Georgia Poultry Federation, National Chicken Council and National Turkey Federation.

In addition to hearing from Petermeyer, attendees learned how safety can gain a seat at the management table from Brad Williams, area complex manager for Wayne Farms. Williams reduced his message to three points, “Love what you do,” “Don’t forget who really does the work,” and “Bring answers, not just questions.”

Larry Stine, a senior principal with Wimberly, Lawson, Steckel, Schneider and Stine PC, provided an update on OSHA’s Regional Emphasis Program in addition to highlighting industry concerns over one small portion of the program. While the industry is not objecting to the special emphasis on poultry, it is concerned that OSHA’s attempts to expand accident or complaint investigations into wall-to-wall inspections is a violation of Fourth Amendment protections. “Despite having the argument decided in a number of previous court cases, OSHA continues to use an arbitrary selection process to choose which facilities will be subject to expanded inspections,” said Stine.

Sessions on sharing best practices and a series of informal roundtables covering many current safety and health issues continued to be popular and beneficial for attendees.