US - Federal safety and health inspectors are to act in four Southeastern states to reduce musculoskeletal disorders and ergonomic stressors affecting industry workers, in a move announced at the same time as a report by Oxfam America condemning worker conditions.
Poultry workers are twice as likely to suffer serious injuries and six times more likely to get sick on the job than other private sector workers, according to the US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
OSHA has announced the launch of a new Regional Emphasis Programme in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi intended to prompt employers to protect poultry industry workers properly and reduce injury and illness rates.
In 2015, the US Department of Agriculture reported that Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi ranked first, third and fifth, respectively, among the nation's largest chicken producers, accounting for 18 of the 51 billion pounds of chicken produced in the US.
OSHA's emphasis programme begans last week with a three-month period of education and prevention outreach activities to share safety and health information with employers, associations and workers. Employers are encouraged to use this period to bring their facilities into compliance with OSHA standards, if they are not already.
The agency will then begin its targeted enforcement phase, including on-site inspections and a review of poultry processing production operations, working conditions, recordkeeping, chemical handling and safety and health programs to ensure compliance.
"The Regional Emphasis Program is designed to reduce employee exposure to crippling injuries, such as musculoskeletal disorders, and to ensure the industry records all occupational injuries and illnesses accurately," said Kurt Petermeyer, OSHA's regional administrator in Atlanta.
The emphasis program ends on October 25, 2016, unless extended. OSHA area offices will continue to open inspections in response to complaints, hospitalisations and fatalities.
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