OSHA denies petition for slower line speeds at meat plants

Civil rights groups say the Department of Labor has formally denied their petition for slower employee work speeds at poultry and meatpacking plants.

Nebraska Appleseed, the Southern Poverty Law Center and 10 other labor rights groups asked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in 2013 for limits on line speeds, which are now as high as 325 cattle per hour in meatpacking plants and 175 birds per minute in poultry plants.

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On Wednesday, Nebraska Appleseed said it received a letter from OSHA last week that said the agency was denying the rulemaking petition because of “limited resources,” which prevent the agency from conducting the work necessary to create safeguards specifically for these workers.

The groups have argued workers who endure rapid work speeds suffer from musculoskeletal disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome.

“Despite OSHA’s denial, there is still an urgent need for a clear and enforceable work speed standard that protects 500,000 poultry and meatpacking workers across the country,” Omaid Zabih, a Nebraska Appleseed staff attorney, said in a statement. “We should not ignore the vast amount of medical and epidemiological literature, reports, surveys and newspaper accounts that all connect permanently disabling repetitive motion injuries to excessive work speed.

OSHA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.