The Bollinger Law Firm, P.C.

Poultry workers at high risk of workplace diseases

North Carolina residents and chicken lovers may be surprised to hear people across the country eat more than 50 pounds of chicken every year. However, they may be even more surprised to hear that workers processing chicken for the biggest poultry companies in the in the country are highly susceptible to workplace diseases including repetitive motion injuries such as carpal tunnel and lung diseases.

In addition to this, the study conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center and Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice determined that not only are the chances for workplace illnesses high, but also the culture of reporting injuries is missing.

Half the problem stems from the nature of the job-workers perform a great deal of repetitive motions throughout the day in very cold temperatures and are two and a half times more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome than non-poultry workers.

Unfortunately, the report also found that employers were not taking many measures to create an ergonomic workplace for their employees. In fact, workers claim that they were discouraged from reporting their injuries and, at times, kept working throughout the pain to make sure production did not slow down.

A new rule proposed by USDA may worsen working conditions for poultry farmers if passed-the law proposes increasing the chicken processing line speed while decreasing the number of health inspectors from four to one per line. Food advocates claim new rules may make it more difficult to thoroughly inspect chickens. However, advocates of the law may only be looking at the bottom line, as the proposed law would save both the federal government and the poultry business billions of dollars.

Regardless of the bottom line and the reporting culture, it is an injured employee's right to file a workers' compensation claim to receive compensation for the emotional, physical and financial pain they endure while performing their duties. Reporting injuries may also go a long way in creating a safer working environment.

Source: wave3.com, "Poultry processing plants are 'house of pain', says new report," Ray Downs, March 7, 2013

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