Meat, poultry industries see improved safety records

Past two decades have seen dramatic decrease in industry's numbers and rates of injury and illnesses.

The incidence of non-fatal occupational injuries and illnesses in the poultry sector, which includes slaughter and processing, remains at an all-time low, according to the "2015 Injury & Illness Report" released Friday by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

“Clearly, the positive trend of the past two decades continues, with overall industry rates improving slightly,” the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) said regarding the change from 5.5 cases per 100 full-time workers per year in 2014 to 5.4 cases in 2015. “We don’t expect large improvements at this point, given how far we’ve come, but it is gratifying that actual results continue to trend in the right direction. The 2015 meat industry safety results reflect the lowest rates on record,” NAMI said.

The total recordable poultry processing illness and injury rate for 2015 was 4.3 cases per 100 full-time workers per year — the same rate as 2014 and lower than the 2015 rate of 4.7 for the entire food manufacturing sector. The 2015 rate for poultry processing represents an 81% decrease from 1994 (the oldest data available on the BLS website), when the recorded rate was 22.7, demonstrating the enormous progress the industry has made in improving safety for its workforce.

"Our employees are our most important asset, and their safety is of paramount importance," the National Chicken Council, National Turkey Federation and U.S. Poultry & Egg Assn. said in response to the report's release. "Perhaps more than any other industry, the poultry industry has focused its energies on the prevention of workplace injuries and illnesses, especially musculoskeletal disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome, by recognizing the value of implementing ergonomics and medical intervention principles and continually embracing technology and automation in the workplace. While the past two decades have seen a dramatic decrease in the numbers and rates of injury and illnesses, the poultry industry is committed to seeking new and innovative ways to protect our workforce."

As for animal production, beef cattle ranching and farming recorded 5.4 total recordable cases, with an average of of 3.7 days away from work. Dairy cattle and milk production recorded 6.6 total recordable cases, with 3.7 days away from work.

Hog farming had an average of 8.0 nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses, with an average of 5.1 days away from work. Poultry and egg production was at 6.9 total recordable cases and four days away from work.

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