Slaughtering chickens is already among the most dangerous and physically demanding jobs, but new regulations increasing line speeds by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will make difficult employment even worse. The industry has a higher accident rate than construction and leads all industries in finger amputations.
Under normal circumstances, when an industry wants to change a regulation, such as increasing the speed limit for processing plants, the process is long and somewhat arduous. That is not the case with faster line speeds because the USDA has devised a workaround. Instead of going through the proper process, the USDA is simply granting waivers on processing plant speed limits for companies that ask. This supposedly reduces unnecessary regulatory burdens, according to The National Chicken Council.
Both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) state that raising line speeds will lead to increased worker injury. To date, 11 chicken-processing plants have received waivers, even though virtually each one of them has a history of severe injuries at their plants. In fact, when the USDA made speed line waivers available last year, the agency stated worker safety was not part of its calculations. The USDA claims such considerations fall under the purview of OSHA, but there is a catch; OSHA has no jurisdiction over plant line speeds.
While finger and other amputations at chicken processing factories are among the most dramatic accidents, the sheer wear-and-tear on the bodies of chicken processing workers takes a larger toll. The constant repetitive motions often lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, along with other muscular and skeletal disorders. Workers are surrounded by sharp blades and machinery, which can result in severe injury if touched accidentally. Research shows that when workers feel stressed and pushed to overproduce, more traumatic injuries occur. To avoid such injuries, workers are supposed to rotate jobs during their shifts, but this regulation is often avoided by supervisors looking to move production as quickly as possible. In the chicken-processing industry, profits are more important than worker safety.
Waiver distribution to companies has only been going on for a few months, so reliable data regarding injuries is not yet available. However, odds are that such data is never going to be available, or even collected, because the Trump administration is no longer requiring meat processing employers to submit injury logs.
If you were injured on the job, you need the services of the experienced Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Gross & Kenny, LLP. We fight for your rights and help you receive the justice you deserve. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients across Pennsylvania. To arrange a free consultation, complete our online form or call us at 267-589-0090.