Workplace Injuries in Poultry Processing Plants
When we think of injuries that occur on the job, we usually think of construction sites; falling from scaffolds; slip and fall accidents; perhaps even repetitive stress injuries received over time. What we rarely think about are folks who work at processing plants and face injuries just as significant as those on a construction site, every day of their lives.
One article recently addressed the issue of poultry processing workers in particular, who face obtaining injuries on a daily basis, all over the country. According to a recent Government Accountability Office Report, the meat and poultry processing industry has the eighth-highest number of severe injury reports of all industries; higher than the rate of injury and illness than coal mining, logging, and oil and gas extraction.
Dangerous Conditions & Legal Violations
These plants include more than 300,000 workers in the U.S. who are frequently injured because they are working at blistering speeds to satisfy the country’s appetite for chicken, which involves slaughtering and processing more than eight billion birds per year. For example, almost two-thirds of all cutters and more than half of all deboners and hangers reported being injured on the job in one state alone.
The tasks required in these plants can be horrific, and although workers wear protective gear, existing working conditions can often lead to serious skin problems due to sweating under the gear. This is especially true in the evisceration department, where workers have to pull the guts out of any dead birds that the machines miss, and as a result, are often splashed with blood and poop.
One of the most common injuries in these plants involves fingers being caught in machinery and resulting in amputations, as well as burns and blindness from moving machine parts. Other hazardous conditions include chemical exposure, the use of shark knives used in close quarters, and slippery floors. Experts have even labeled these plants as “inherently dangerous work environments.”
One contributing factor to the injury rate includes the inconsistent worker training practices pervasive throughout the industry, as well as language barriers that companies aren’t doing anything to help address. Aside from these concerns, the Government Accountability Report also reported that some workers were denied bathroom breaks, which can lead to abdominal pain, constipation, hemorrhoids, and urinary tract infections.
Issues in Florida
Although the vast majority of these injuries are never even reported in the first place, Florida has a number of these plants and major companies, including Pilgrim’s Pride in Live Oak, Florida, which has been the subject of previous OSHA investigations citing serious violations that are so hazardous they were found to be causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.
The largest overall supplier in the U.S. is Tyson Foods, Inc., which supplies to Kroger, Taco Bell, and Walmart. Tyson has a poultry processing plant in Jacksonville, Florida, and, overall, produced approximately 174.8 million pounds of chicken ($11.5 billion in sales) in 2017 alone. One Tyson plant kills around 200,000 birds per day–that’s a processing rate of 148 birds per minute for the workers.
Worker Protection Attorneys in Florida
If you suffered from an injury that occurred in relation to your job at a processing plant, you should discuss your situation with an experienced workers’ injury attorney right away. Contact one of our Boca Raton, Florida workers’ compensation attorneys at Lavalle, Brown & Ronan today to find out more.