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Protect poultry workers from injuries, civil rights groups urge

The North Carolina Justice Center is one of the numerous civil rights groups that have filed a petition asking the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the United States Department of Agricultural to improve their protection of poultry workers. Even though America is the largest producer of beef and poultry across the globe, the scene behind the curtains may shock many meat consumers. Federal policies actually permit workers to work in unsafe working conditions that often leave permanent injuries.

Poultry and meat workers make around 20,000 cuts a day on the meat they are working on, creating a punishing speed that results in many repetitive workplace injuries, such as carpal tunnel or other debilitating injuries. Other illnesses include respiratory disorders and knife cuts. In the petition, the coalition of civil rights groups urges the governmental agencies to reconsider the proposed rule further speeding up the production line's speed, in addition to creating a standard speed and ensuring that safety guidelines are enforced.

Unfortunately, the working environment in many poultry and meat production facilities is not one that promotes safety or confidence. Many workers are afraid of reporting their injuries for fear of retaliation and even go as far as relieving themselves while working instead of incurring the wrath of their supervisors.

North Carolina workers may not be aware that it is their right to file a workers' compensation claim against a negligent employer when they are injured on the job, without fear of retribution. Reporting a workplace injury will not only enable them to receive compensation for their injuries, but also highlight the unsafe working culture and bring OSHA's attention to the matter.

Source:, "Groups call on OSHA, USDA to improve poultry worker conditions," Sept. 3, 2013

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