Proposed Regulation in Poultry Industry Poses Hazards for Latino Workers
May 08 2012
A new proposed regulation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would speed up production lines in poultry processing plants, putting its heavily Latino workforce at greater risk of injury in an industry notorious for its hazardous working conditions. NCLR (National Council of La Raza) published a new report, Latinos in the Poultry Processing Industry, documenting the hazards that poultry workers—34 percent of whom are Latino—face as they perform repetitive tasks such as sorting, hanging, cutting, and trimming poultry at rapid speeds in crowded, damp conditions. Musculoskeletal injuries to the hands, wrists, and arms are common but widely underreported because of the precarious employment status of many workers.
The regulation, proposed by the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service, aims to improve food safety by automating some aspects of the inspection process that is required to identify and dispose of contaminated poultry. USDA’s regulation would allow plants to increase line speeds from 140 birds per minute to 175 birds per minute. Yet, the proposed changes do not account or prepare for the expected adverse impacts that increasing line speed will have on worker health and safety.
“Common sense says that if you take a process that is already dangerous and increase the speed of production lines, you will also increase the risk of injury among poultry workers,” said Eric Rodriguez, Vice President of the Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation at NCLR. “It is gravely irresponsible to press ahead with this rule given what we know about the conditions in the poultry industry today. That USDA made no effort to put in place steps for greater oversight and monitoring of safety for companies that increase production speeds is troubling. We expect better from an administration that is committed to protecting vulnerable workers.”
“USDA should rescind this rule and work with other federal agencies to develop a comprehensive plan to mitigate hazards and protect poultry workers,” concluded Rodriguez.
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