For Immediate Releasejsheldon@neappleseed.org
OSHA issues noteworthy fine to poultry plant for injuries and abuses
Violations echo concerns of Nebraska meatpacking and poultry workers
Yesterday, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a fine of more than $100,000 to an Alabama poultry plant after finding the plant repeatedly exposed workers to serious health and safety hazards – many of them being the same hazards faced by Nebraska meat and poultry workers.
OSHA’s findings came after an official complaint filed by Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of a group of workers. These findings validate what meat and poultry workers in Nebraska and across the country have been saying for years – dangerously fast work speeds are creating permanently crippling injuries.
The federal agency found that dangers inside the plant, Wayne Farms, located in Jack, Alabama, caused workers to suffer serious musculoskeletal injuries and the plant failed to report these workplace injuries as mandated by federal law. OSHA’s investigation also revealed the troubling implication the plant discouraged workers from seeking early medical treatment that could have reduced the severity of their injuries.
“OSHA found that workers in this plant were exposed to safety and musculoskeletal hazards and suffered serious injuries as a result,” Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, said in a release. “The outcome of this investigation deepened our concern about musculoskeletal hazards in poultry plants, where employees are at increased risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome and other disorders that affect the nerves, muscles and tendons.”
Nebraska meatpacking workers detailed similar safety and human rights violations in a 2009 Nebraska Appleseed survey “The Speed Kills You: The Voice of Nebraska Meatpacking Workers” and recent petitions to OSHA and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
Nebraska Appleseed, Southern Poverty Law Center, and other worker and food safety advocates are part of a nationwide coalition fighting to increase oversight of and accountability for meatpacking and poultry plants. Meat and poultry workers from Nebraska and southern states testified before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights earlier this year.
“OSHA’s findings demonstrate the dire need for federal work speed protections and a special emphasis program in the meat and poultry industry to protect workers in Nebraska and across the U.S.,” said Omaid Zabih, staff attorney in Nebraska Appleseed’s Immigrants & Communities Program. “Plants continue to put workers in unreasonable danger that leads to high rates of permanent, crippling injuries. They will continue to do so unless better protections are put into place. No one should face permanent injuries just for doing their job.”
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