US - Fifteen members of the House of Representatives have written to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) asking for a crack down on abusive labour practices in the poultry industry.
The letter follows a report from Oxfam America, which said that poultry workers in the US suffer extremely high rates of injury, earn poverty level wages, and work in a climate of fear.
“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,” the representatives wrote. “Employees that handle live birds are sometimes exposed to poultry faeces and have even a higher risk for disease.”
“Moreover, workers are under enormous pressure to not report injuries, leading to under-reporting, a systemic problem across the country,” they continued. “The risks facing poultry processing and meatpacking workers have become a national challenge, with dangerous work sites touching nearly every region across the country.”
Earlier this month, OSHA announced it would start a regional enforcement programme at all work sites in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas and certain work sites in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and New Mexico.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, poultry workers were injured at a rate 1.5 times higher than all workers and meatpacking workers at a rate twice as high as other workers in 2012.
Musculoskeletal disorders are of particular concern among these workers as the incidence rate of occupational illness cases reported in the poultry industry in 2011 and 2012 has remained high, at more than five times the average for all US industries.