US poultry processors celebrate safety milestone

Illness and injury rates in US poultry processing facilities have fallen below the average rate for all manufacturing.
calendar icon 10 November 2020
clock icon 5 minute read

The incidence of occupational injuries and illnesses within the poultry sector’s slaughter and processing workforce has fallen below all manufacturing for the first time since the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS) began recording injuries and illnesses information in 1994.

The total recordable poultry processing illness and injury rate for 2019 was 3.2 cases per 100 full-time workers annually, down from 3.5 in 2018. The poultry industry’s rate of 3.2 was below the rate of 5.1 for similar agricultural industries in terms of injuries per 100 full-time workers and lower than the rate of 4.0 for the entire food manufacturing sector and all of manufacturing at 3.3.

The incidence of occupational injuries and illnesses within the poultry sector’s slaughter and processing workforce has fallen by 86 percent over the last 25 years and continues to decline according to the 2019 Injury and Illness Report recently released by the BLS. Poultry processing’s 2019 rate of 3.2, and its continual decline, demonstrates the vast advancements the industry has made in improving safety for its workforce.

“Employee safety has been and will always be a priority for the poultry industry. The industry is continuing to focus its efforts on the prevention of workplace injuries and illnesses, especially musculoskeletal disorders such carpal tunnel syndrome, by acknowledging the benefit of implementing ergonomics and medical intervention principles while continually implementing new technology and automation in the workplace.

The past two decades have shown a noteworthy decrease in the numbers and rates of injury and illnesses. However, the poultry industry remains committed to pursuing new and resourceful ways to safeguard our workforce,” said the Joint Industry Safety and Health Council in a statement regarding the report’s release.

The Joint Industry Safety and Health Council consists of members from the US Poultry & Egg Association (US Poultry), the National Chicken Council (NCC) and the National Turkey Federation (NTF). Collectively, the three organisations represent companies that produce 95 percent of the nation's poultry products and directly employ more than 350,000 workers.

“Our employees are our most important asset, and their safety is of utmost importance,” said US Poultry, NCC and NTF in response to the report’s release. “The poultry industry has continually focused its energies on the prevention of workplace injuries and illnesses. This most recent data acknowledges the excellent safety performance achievements the poultry industry has accomplished. Surpassing the ‘all of manufacturing’ category has been one of our milestones that we are proud to say has been accomplished. We will continue to seek new milestones to ensure the safety and well-being of our employees.”

Last year, the poultry industry and the US Department of Labour’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) announced an alliance to share information, guidance and access to training resources that will help further improve the significant gains made in poultry worker safety. It is the goal of the industry to continue to drive these rates down and help promote the overall health and safety of employees and team members.

Currently, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) National Occupational Research Agenda for manufacturing and OSHA are studying the manufacturing sector's response to COVID-19. The study will review the use of risk assessment analysis of social distancing practices with the goal of researching the effectiveness of implemented controls. US Poultry is providing input on behalf of the poultry industry.

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