Workplace Injury Rate Lowest Ever in U.S. Packing Plants

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Worker injuries in packing plants are declining. ( FJ )

Workplace safety in America’s meat and poultry processing facilities reached an all-time low rate of worker injuries and illnesses in 2018, the federal government says.

Newly released data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows meat industry accident rates improved last year from both 2017 and 2016 levels, for an all-time low of 4.3 cases per 100 full-time workers per year. The most serious injuries, those included in the “Days Away, Restricted, or Job Transfer (DART)” rate, also dropped from 2017’s 4.6 to 2018’s 3.6, also the lowest rates ever recorded.

“The data continues to prove the meat and poultry industry is committed to the highest standards of well-being of its employees,” said North American Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Anna Potts. “The success of our industry depends on a safe and healthy work environment for the 800,000 people who produce meat and poultry.”

The 2018 data show a twenty-year injury reduction from 20.1 to 4.3, illustrating a sustained industry trend of workplace safety improvement, NAMI said. In 1998 the incidence rate was 20.1, while in 2008 the incidence rate was 10.3.

According to a statement from the Meat Institute, the organization declared worker safety a non-competitive issue, which encouraged member companies to collaborate to find solutions that prioritized and enhanced worker safety. The meat industry, together with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union, also developed Voluntary Ergonomic Guidelines for the Meat Packing Industry — guidelines that OSHA called a “model” for other industries. In 2019, worker safety was identified as a key pillar in the Meat Institute’s sustainability efforts and the industry will develop additional metrics and targets for continuous improvement over the next decade.

OSHA closely and regularly monitors the record keeping of employers to ensure that injuries are reported. Significant lapses in recordkeeping would result in OSHA issuing citations and levying fines. OSHA has not had a significant complaint against a meatpacker for decades. Workers injured on the job receive compensation, and their rights as workers are guaranteed by federal law.