Poultry industry among top of OSHA amputation rankings

OSHA representative says poultry industry has a concerning number of employee accidents resulting in amputations.

designer491, Bigstockphoto.com
designer491, Bigstockphoto.com

Loren Sweatt, deputy assistant secretary of labor for Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) spoke at the National Safety Conference for the poultry industry on August 13. Though she offered some positive remarks, among the more concerning was her discussion on amputations related to work involving the poultry industry.

“An examination of OSHA’s severe injury reports places the poultry industry among the highest in reported amputations,” Sweatt said.

Although a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggested amputations are declining, data from Michigan, Massachusetts and Illinois suggest that amputations are under reported 50 to 80 percent. This could be a data quality issue too, Sweatt explained.

“Recent analyses of OSHA's Severe Injury Reports and the Amputations National Emphasis Program showed that OSHA inspections are associated with higher reporting of amputations, suggesting that employers inspected by OSHA are more likely to report injuries,” Sweatt said.

Sweatt explained that OSHA would like to work with the poultry industry to address this problem. “These types of injuries can be prevented, but if they do occur, they should be reported,” she said.

Peracetic acid

Peracetic acid (PAA), a disinfectant, presents its own issues too. It is highly reactive and effective which makes it a desirable option for the poultry processing disinfectant process. The problem is not only employee exposure to the chemical, but also it creates a challenge for workers trying to measure atmospheric PAA concentrations.

“OSHA’s chemists have been working on a sampling method using a liquid media that is yielding promising results. I am told this could provide a validated method to sample workplace air PAA concentrations which, of course, would be shared as soon as possible,” she said.

OSHA – poultry industry relationship

The relationship between the poultry industry and OSHA hasn’t always been the best, Sweatt openly admitted that.

“Working with your peers, I hope you will help carry the message that while employers are responsible for the safety and health of their workers, OSHA is here to help. Sharing best practices and educational resources through industry events is a start. Reaching out to smaller producers or others who are less active in your trade associations will make inroads that the agency cannot make alone,” she said.

Employees should be properly trained in safety management and plans should be in place should an emergency occur.

Other issues for the poultry industry include forklifts, medical management and workplace violence. All of these were addressed in Sweatt's presentation.

 Occupational injuries and illnesses within the poultry sector’s slaughter and processing workforce has fallen by 81 percent in the last 20 years and continues to decline according to the 2014 Injury and Illness Report released by BLS.

The National Chicken Council website states, "while the past 25 years has seen a dramatic decrease in the numbers and rates injury and illnesses occurring in the industry, the poultry industry will continue to seek new and innovative ways to protect our workforce."

A list of on going efforts to improve worker safety within the poultry industry can be found on the National Chicken Council's website. 

Recently multiple poultry industry companies have been recognized for their worker safety records

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