Working as a factory or warehouse worker in the food industry can produce numerous safety problems for employees, especially those that are physical.
Georgia-based poultry producer, Wayne Farms, was recently —damages to the muscular and skeletal system.
Federal workplace regulator, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), cited the poultry company for 11 safety hazards, which were all fined at a total of $100,00.
As stated on the association’s website, Congress initiated OSHA “to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.”
In most cases, OSHA never punishes a poultry company so harshly, but sources say that the details of the safety violations must have been exceptionally detrimental to the workers at Wayne Farms.
Under the general duty clause, Wayne Farms in Jack, Alabama was cited for placing its line workers in hazardous situations.
The clause states that employers have an obligation to protect and ensure the safety of their workers by complying to OSHA’s health and safety standards.
The company, however, asked most of its workers to not report their injuries to a health physician and safety officials, nine of which were said to be serious in nature.
Most of the workers, which are low-paid immigrants, usually succumbed to reccurring injuries resulting in carpal tunnel syndrome. Instead of seeking a professional doctor, employees were forced to seek help from an on-site nurse on numerous occasions.
Additionally, Wayne Farms failed to authentically report the workers’ injuries.
"Wayne Farms effectively concealed the extent to which these poultry plant workers were suffering work-related injuries and illnesses," said Joseph Roesler, OSHA’s area director in Mobile, Alabama. "And as a result, it reported an artificially lower injury and illness rate."
The poultry company has responded to the allegations stating that the terms within the citations were “vague” and needed to be investigated more.
Wayne Farms claims that they have already addressed the issue once before and that there were no “violations of any specific regulation or safety protocol.”
Occupational Health and Safety expert Celeste Monforton said that he was happy to see Wayne Farms get busted for a lack of compassion towards its workers. To him, OSHA has made a turning point on how they handle these sorts of situations.
“It’s a breath of fresh air to finally see the Labor Department taking a tough stand against ergonomic hazards,” said Monforton in an email. “The fact that it did so tells me the situation for workers was egregious."
Most advocacy groups in support of workplace safety couldn’t agree more with Monforton’s stance on the issue and how it’s not uncommon for poultry workers to face hazardous situations in the workplace on a daily basis.
OSHA hopes that this will be the first step in highlighting some of the worst working conditions for poultry workers.
Wayne Farms has decided to challenge several of the citations by filing a complaint against OSHA.