Lawmakers blast poultry, meat industries over worker injuries

Lawmakers blast poultry, meat industries over worker injuries
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Democrats are calling on the Labor Department to improve conditions for workers in the meat and poultry processing industries, where high rates of injury and illness persist.

Sens. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayWeek ahead: Senators near deal to stabilize ObamaCare markets Policymaking commission offers a glimmer of hope in hyper-partisan Washington Dems call on DeVos to work with CFPB to protect student borrowers MORE (D-Wash.) and Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseySenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill GOP eying 'blue slip' break to help Trump fill the courts Dems offer alternative to Trump administration's child care proposal MORE (D-Pa.) and Rep. Bobby ScottBobby ScottDems call on DeVos to work with CFPB to protect student borrowers Dems offer alternative to Trump administration's child care proposal Air Force One is Trump’s new boardroom MORE (D-Va.) released a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report Wednesday that found while injury and illness rates declined from an estimated 9.8 cases per 100 full-time workers in 2004 to 5.7 cases in 2013, they remain higher than rates for all U.S. manufacturing, which dropped from an estimated 8.2 cases to 5 cases per 100 full-time workers. 

The report found some injuries to meat and poultry workers have resulted in fatalities. From 2004 to 2013, 154 workers died on the job. Of the 46 workers who sustained fatal injuries from 2011 to 2013, 19 died as the result of transportation incidents in which the person was struck by a vehicle. Other fatalities were the result of workplace violence, a violent animal, contact with objects or equipment or exposure to harmful substances.

“The conditions that these workers are forced to endure is an outrage, and have no place in our nation,” Casey said in a statement. “This is a matter of basic justice. The meat and poultry industry must quickly take substantial steps to improve the workplace conditions for those in this industry.”

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD), due to forceful exertion or repetition, are some of the most common injuries found in these industries.

The GAO report recommends the Labor Department enable workers to sharpen and change knives regularly so they do not have to exert undue force to make cuts.

Other recommendations include involving workers in an ergonomics program to improve problem-solving and hazard identification and training engineers and maintenance personnel in how to prevent and correct ergonomic problems.

The report also calls for the establishment of a medical management program with effective reporting, evaluation, treatment and referrals that is run by healthcare staff trained in MSD prevention.