Poultry Processing Plants & Worker Injuries
When we think of injuries sustained on the job, we often think of construction site accidents, slip and falls, perhaps injuries based on repetitive actions, such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
What we likely are not aware of are the many workers injured every day in processing plants.
A recent investigative report conducted by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting shed some important light on this issue.
Severe Injury Risks
Although the vast majority of injuries in the poultry processing industry are never reported, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Government Accountability Office, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the meat and poultry processing industry has the eighth-highest number of severe injury reports out of all the industries. In fact, it has now surpassed the rate of injury and illness associated with coal mining, logging, and oil and gas extraction.
Why is the injury rate so serious in this industry? Simply put, the more than 300,000 poultry workers in the U.S. work at blistering speeds to produce the more than eight billion slaughtered birds each year. One plant kills approximately 200,000 birds per day—that’s 148 birds per minute. While the U.S. Department of Agriculture caps the maximum number of birds that can be processed at 140 per minute, processors can apply for waivers that allow for processing up to 175 birds per minute. This is based on food safety standards, not worker safety.
Moreover, the types of injuries these workers face are daunting: Experts have labeled it “an inherently dangerous work environment.” Workers face a number of hazardous conditions, including chemical exposure, being cut by sharp knives in close quarters, and slippery floors. Every day, they suffer from amputations, blindness, burns, and crushed fingers or hands from moving machine parts, as well as musculoskeletal disorders and injuries due to a combination of the awkward body positioning and cold environments. While some companies require that their workers wear protective gear to prevent injuries, wearing the gear can also cause serious skin problems when workers sweat.
Contributing to the risk of injury is a lack of consistent worker training practices provided, language barriers across the industry, and lack of access to bathroom breaks for these workers, which can lead to abdominal pain, constipation, hemorrhoids, and urinary tract infections.
Problems in Florida
Florida is no exception: The state has a number of small, medium, and large-sized plants, including Pilgrim’s Pride and Tyson Foods, Inc. Pilgrim’s Pride in Live Oak, Florida has already been the subject of a number of serious OSHA citations, including safety and health hazards that could cost workers their lives.
Still, Tyson Foods is by far the largest supplier, providing poultry for Kroger, Taco Bell, and Walmart to sell, and doing $11.5 billion in chicken sales last year alone. The company’s Florida poultry processing plant is located in Jacksonville.
Florida Work Injury Recovery Attorneys
If you have been injured while working in a processing plant, speak with one of our experienced Florida work injury lawyers at Friedland & Associates right away to find out how we can help. You do not need to go through this alone.