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Tillman & Associates, Attorneys at Law

Poultry workers are at higher than average risk for injury

Animal advocates have long talked about the cruelty that animals who are consumed as food undergo on factory farms, slaughterhouses and industrial plants where they are raised and killed. However, the conditions for the humans who work in these places have also been a source of controversy. Among those workers are people employed by the poultry industry in Georgia and other states.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has said that poultry workers suffer higher rates of severe injuries and illnesses than most other private sector workers. Poultry processing plants throughout Georgia have been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for safety violations, and fines have been levied in some cases.

Recently, OSHA launched a Regional Emphasis Program to improve the safety of poultry workers. The president of the Georgia Poultry Federation acknowledged that the industry needed "to improve worker safety rules."

Those most at risk are people who work on assembly lines where the chickens are hanged, deboned and have their wings cut off. Speed is a requirement of the job. According to federal regulations, plants can require that up to 140 chickens be processed per minute.

The illnesses and injuries (sometimes fatal) that poultry workers are most likely to suffer from are caused by equipment, pathogens, loud noise and hazardous chemicals. Respiratory conditions and hearing loss have been reported.

Even though injuries and illnesses among poultry workers have reportedly dropped more than 80 percent in the past 11 years, the real numbers can't be known for certain. Many workers in the poultry industry don't speak English and/or don't know what kind of workplace protections they're entitled to. Others are simply afraid of losing their jobs if they report an injury.

The new OSHA program may improve reporting. While it doesn't change any regulations, it includes public service campaigns, training sessions and health and safety programs.

If you or someone you love has been injured or made ill due to conditions at work, it may be wise to consult a Georgia workers' compensation or personal injury attorney. Sound legal advice can help you determine what your best course of action is to hold your employer accountable for unsafe conditions and to get the compensation you need to take care of your family as you heal.

Source: Gainesville Times, "OSHA safety program targets local poultry plants, workers Poultry Federation looks to cut down on worker injuries," Joshua Silavent, Nov. 06, 2015

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