Poultry line at a slaughterhouse USDA photo by Alice Welch

Poultry industry’s worker safety record stable

Sector’s slaughter and processing workforce injury and illness rate has fallen 82% over last 20 years.

The incidence of occupational injuries and illnesses within the poultry sector’s slaughter and processing workforce has fallen by 82% over the last 20 years and continues to decline, according to the "2016 Injury & Illness Report" released recently by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The total recordable poultry processing illness and injury rate for 2016 was 4.2 cases per 100 full-time workers (per year), down from 4.3 in 2015. The poultry industry’s rate also was below the 6.9 rate for similar agricultural industries in terms of injuries per 100 full-time workers and lower than the rate of 4.7 for the entire food manufacturing sector.

The poultry processing sector’s 2016 rate of 4.2 represents an 82% decrease from 1994 (the oldest data available on the BLS website), when the recorded rate was 22.7, demonstrating the immense advancements the industry has made in improving safety for its workforce.

“Employee safety is of utmost importance. The poultry industry continues to concentrate its efforts on the prevention of workplace injuries and illnesses, especially musculoskeletal disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome, by recognizing the benefit of implementing ergonomics and medical intervention principles while continually effecting new technology and automation in the workplace,” the Joint Industry Safety & Health Council said in a statement regarding the report’s release. “Though the past two decades have shown a remarkable decrease in the numbers and rates of injury and illnesses, the poultry industry is dedicated to pursuing new and inventive ways to safeguard our workforce.”

The Joint Industry Safety & Health Council consists of members from the U.S. Poultry Assn., the National Chicken Council and the National Turkey Federation. Collectively, the three organizations represent companies that produce 95% of the nation's poultry products and directly employ more than 350,000 workers.

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