US - A new report from the US' Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that although poultry industry injury rates have continually declined over the past decade, hazardous conditions remain and more data is needed to tackle this.
The report found that injury and illness rates declined from an estimated 9.8 cases per 100 full-time workers in 2004 to 5.7 in 2013. However, these rates continued to be higher than rates for manufacturing overall.
Some of the hazards found to be associated with meat and poultry workers were musculoskeletal disorders, exposure to chemicals and pathogens, and traumatic injuries from machines and tools.
However, in a positive for the poultry industry, injury rates were estimated to be lower for poultry workers than for other meat workers.
The report said the Department of Labor (DOL) is facing difficulties obtaining data as workers may under-report injury or illness to protect their jobs, contract workers may be inadequately recorded, and DOL only record illness or injury when it results in workers having to take days off work.
GAO concluded that better data gathering needs to be implemented, particularly for musculoskeletal disorders, to help government departments to ensure safe workplaces.
The National Chicken Council, National Turkey Federation and US Poultry & Egg Association said that they had cooperated with the report and were pleased with the progress the industry had made in reducing illness and injury rates.
"Our employees are our most important asset and their safety is of paramount importance," the organisations' statement said.
The statement said the industry has focused on the prevention of workplace injuries and illnesses, especially musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) like carpal tunnel syndrome, by recognising the value of implementing ergonomics and medical intervention principles, and working with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to develop guidelines that further help protect our workforce.
"The poultry industry will continue to seek new and innovative ways to protect our workforce – including data collection and record keeping," the statement concluded.