***For Immediate Release***
March 21, 2016
Contact, Jeff Sheldon
Communications Director, Nebraska Appleseed
(402) 438-8853 (office)
(402) 840-7289 (cell)
High rate of meatpacking worker injuries lead to new OSHA education, enforcement efforts
New program to focus on reducing unsafe conditions for workers
LINCOLN – Workers in meatpacking and poultry plants continue to work in some of the most dangerous jobs in the U.S, suffering high rates of painful and permanent injuries as they try to keep up with inhuman speeds of the processing line.
To address this serious issue, the Omaha Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) office announced last week that it is launching a new local emphasis program for the meat processing industry in Nebraska. The program will focus on reducing unsafe conditions – including crippling repetitive motion injuries – by conducting randomized, comprehensive inspections of meatpacking plants, as well as providing outreach and education services to employers to decrease hazards.
“Nebraska workers – together with Nebraska Appleseed and many others – worked hard to call attention to the serious hazards and extraordinarily high rates of painful and permanently disabling injuries in meatpacking plants to OSHA,” said Omaid Zabih, staff attorney for Nebraska Appleseed’s Immigrants & Communities Program. “We applaud OSHA for directing attention to improving safety in this industry. This program will help to protect the hard-working Nebraskans who ensure the food integrity for millions of Americans, ultimately benefiting communities, families, and the meatpacking industry as a whole in Nebraska.”
For more than a decade, Nebraska Appleseed has worked with meatpacking and poultry workers in Nebraska to study unrelenting work speeds and the resulting permanent, crippling injuries suffered by workers. Appleseed has joined other worker and civil rights groups across the country to call for increased worker protections in meatpacking and poultry industries and conducted research and worker surveys that have highlighted the severity of this problem.
Nebraska Appleseed documented dire workplace hazards in Nebraska’s meatpacking industry in our 2009 report, The Speed Kills You: The Voice of Nebraska’s Meatpacking Workers. The Southern Poverty Law Center and Alabama Appleseed recorded similar dangers in the poultry industry in their 2013 report Unsafe at These Speeds: Alabama’s Poultry Industry and its Disposable Workers.
Recent deeply troubling investigations also have been conducted by Oxfam America in its report Lives on the Line: The Human Cost of Cheap Chicken in October 2015 and by the Northwest Arkansas Workers’ Justice Center in its report Wages and Working Conditions in Arkansas Poultry Plants in February 2016.
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