Dems push OSHA to crack down on poultry industry

House Democrats are calling on the Obama administration to crack down on abusive labor practices in the poultry processing and meatpacking industries.

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A group of 15 Democrats led by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.) sent a letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on Tuesday asking the agency to create a National Emphasis Program to provide “heightened scrutiny” over serious health and safety hazards within the industry.

“As you know, repetitive motions, excessively fast line speeds, lack of restroom and rest breaks, knife cuts, slippery floors, hazardous chemicals, dangerous equipment, and exposure to high noise levels are among the many serious safety and health hazards that poultry and meat processing workers face,” their letter said. “Employees that handle live birds are sometimes exposed to poultry feces and have even a higher risk for disease.”

Citing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the lawmakers said poultry workers were injured at a rate 1.5 times higher than all other workers in 2013 and meatpackers were injured at a rate twice as high.

“The need for enforcement from your agency is critical to protecting these workers from serious injury,” the Democrats' letter said. “We believe the high rate of injuries and the poor safety practices warrant special intervention from OSHA.”