OSHA Launches Regional Emphasis Program in Southern States Aimed at Protecting Poultry Workers

In view of Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) that 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, OSHA launched a new Regional Emphasis Program last week to reduce musculoskeletal disorders and ergonomic stressors affecting industry workers. The targeted states include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas – states that include some of the country’s largest poultry producers.

OSHA’s emphasis program will include an initial three-month period focusing on education and outreach activities to share safety and health information with employers, associations, and workers. Musculoskeletal disorders are a particular concern – for example, in 2013, the incidence rate of carpel tunnel syndrome (CTS) was more than seven times the national average. Furthermore, reports suggest that poultry industry employers are under-reporting injuries and illnesses – in one instance, although 64 workers had conditions meeting the definition of CTS, only four CTS cases were reported by the employer on the OSHA 300 log.

After the initial education and outreach activities, OSHA will begin a 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 will end in approximately one year.

OSHA emphasis programs, such as the newest program aimed at protecting workers in the poultry industry, are intended to address hazards or industries posing particular risks to workers in specific geographic areas. Other recent emphasis programs have addressed, among other things, Fall Hazards in Construction, the Oil and Gas Service Industry, and Silica.

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