OSHA Regional Emphasis Program Prompts Employers to Protect Poultry Workers
In late October, OSHA launched a new Regional Emphasis Program focused on reducing occupational injuries and illnesses at Southeastern chicken processing facilities. The program, which will begin with a three-month period of education and prevention outreach activities by OSHA, will target facilities in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi, states that are among the largest chicken producers in the U.S. According to the agency, poultry workers are twice as likely to suffer serious injuries and six times more likely to become ill on the job than other private sector workers. NIOSH staff who conducted a health hazard evaluation of a South Carolina poultry processing plant last year noted an “alarming prevalence” of carpal tunnel syndrome in workers at the plant: 42 percent of the workers who participated in the evaluation had evidence of carpal tunnel syndrome. OSHA encourages employers whose facilities are not already in compliance with agency standards to use the first three months of this program to comply. After the three-month period, OSHA will begin its targeted enforcement phase, which will include 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 emphasis program is scheduled to end on Oct. 25, 2016. For more information, see OSHA’s press release.