Next time you bite into a piece of chicken think about the workers that got that piece of poultry to your dinner table.
Did you know, for instance, that poultry workers get hurt twice as often as other workers? Or, did you know that they get sick six times more often than other workers in the private sector?
Among the health issues that poultry workers face are musculoskeletal disorders, tinitus from exposure to high noise levels, dangerous equipment and machines, slick and slippery floors from blood and chemicals and exposure to dangerous chemicals such as ammonia (which is used as a refrigerant in the poultry processing environment). Further more, workers are exposed to many biological hazards because they often handle live birds, bird poop and dander and dust.
Because of this as well as because of a renewed emphasis on food safety, OSHA is stepping up inspections of poultry processing operations. They’ve also put together a webpage on their site to help employers as well as employees reduce these hazards in the workplace.
The topics they address are:
- implementing an effective ergonomics program (PDF*),
- implementing an effective hearing conservation program,
- implementing design and maintenance of electrical systems and an effective lockout/tagout program to prevent injury from accidental start up of machinery during maintenance activities,
- providing required personal protective equipment (PPE),
- guarding dangerous equipment,
- following OSHA’s process safety management standard to protect workers from accidental leaks of ammonia,
- incorporating engineering controls, such as improving sanitation and ventilation measures, to protect workers from biological hazards that can cause, salmonella, psittacosis, campylobacter infection and other diseases,
- maintaining walking/working surfaces to prevent slips, trips and falls,
- implementing OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard requirements and ensuring workers are not exposed to unsafe levels of hazardous chemicals,
- following OSHA standards that require that exit doors are not blocked and not locked while employees are in the building. Employees must be able to open an exit route door from the inside at all times without keys, tools or special knowledge.
To find out more about the dangers and hazards in the poultry industry check out this report entitled Lives on the Line.