Speeding up poultry line may increase workplace injuries

Workplace injuries come in many forms-some may be the immediate result of a workplace accident whereas others may build up over time due to repetitive movements associated with daily tasks. Carpal tunnel, a common workplace injury in workers who work on computers all day, is a syndrome caused by repetitive movements. It can start out by causing sharp pain in the arms and wrists, but can even lead to numbness in the arms. It is known to reduce the quality of life of those inflicted.

Other than computer based jobs, carpal tunnel is also common in poultry plant workers. In a 2006 study of poultry farm workers in North Carolina, researchers determined that 60 percent of workers were in pain every day, with workers complaining of chronic arm, back and wrist pain and headaches. This pain may be the result of the speedy work employees are required to do-in order to run an efficient plant, some plants require workers hang up almost one chicken per second.

However, despite evidence of the growing number of workplace injuries suffered by poultry plant workers, the United States Department of Agriculture has proposed new rules that would allow greedy plant owners to speed up the processing lines to move up to 70 to 140 chickens per minute.

When researchers interviewed North Carolina poultry plant workers, only 19 percent felt that their employers were doing everything within their means to ensure worker safety. In fact, 65 percent were of the opinion that their supervisors were more interested in making money than in their safety. However, it is a North Carolina employer’s duty to create a safe working environment for their employees. When they neglect their duty, injured workers can file a workers’ compensation claim to cover medical expenses and more importantly, shine some light on their working conditions to bring about a change for the better

Source: Medical Daily, “60% of poultry workers report pain, but USDA considers speeding up lines in effort to save money,” Anoopa Singh, June 7, 2013

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