The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced a new Regional Emphasis Program in four Southeastern states aimed at protecting poultry industry workers.
According to OSHA, poultry workers are twice as likely to suffer serious injuries and six times more likely to get sick on the job than other private sector workers. The Regional Emphasis Program will prompt employers in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi to protect their employees from the musculoskeletal disorders and ergonomic stressors that disproportionately affect those who work in the poultry industry.
"The Regional Emphasis Program is designed to reduce employee exposure to crippling injuries, such as musculoskeletal disorders, and to ensure the industry records all occupational injuries and illnesses accurately," said Kurt Petermeyer, OSHA's regional administrator in Atlanta.
Last year, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi ranked first, third and fifth, respectively, among the nation's largest chicken producers, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report. Together, they yielded 18 of the 51 billion pounds of chicken produced in the U.S. in 2014.
Starting October 26, the first three months of the program are designated as an education period. During this time, OSHA will share health and safety information with employers, associations and workers in a series of outreach activities. This period gives employers and workers a chance to solidify their familiarity with OSHA regulations and get into compliance.
After the education period, OSHA will begin its targeted enforcement phase. For the remaining nine months of the program, federal investigators will conduct on-site inspections at poultry processing facilities, reviewing poultry processing production operations, working conditions, recordkeeping, chemical handling and safety and health programs to ensure compliance. Unless extended, the program will last until October 25, 2016.
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