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Survey of Poultry Workers Shows High Rate of Injuries, Suggests

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  • Virgil
    Survey of Poultry Workers Shows High Rate of Injuries, Suggests Need for Uniform Enforcement of Safety Regulations ... WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - A survey of
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 1, 2005
      Survey of Poultry Workers Shows High Rate of Injuries, Suggests
      Need for Uniform Enforcement of Safety Regulations

      WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - A survey of poultry workers in western
      North Carolina reveals high rates of injuries, as well as significant
      differences among poultry companies in numbers of injuries and how
      workers view company emphasis on safety.

      The survey was conducted by researchers at Wake Forest University
      School of Medicine in collaboration with Centro Latino of
      Caldwell County, Inc.

      "We found high rates of musculoskeletal injuries," said Sara A.
      Quandt, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology at the School of Medicine,
      which is part of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical
      Center. "Almost half of workers reported pain in their hands or arms
      during the previous month and one in five of those workers was unable
      to work for at least a day in the previous year because of the pain."

      The survey was based on a representative sample of Latino workers in
      six counties in western North Carolina: Alexander, Burke, Caldwell,
      Surry, Wilkes and Yadkin. The results, not yet published in a
      peer-reviewed journal, were distributed to community groups in a
      working paper.

      Poultry processing is the largest and fastest growing sector of the
      meat products industry, according to the authors. In 2002, North
      Carolina and four other states accounted for 70 percent of all
      broiler production in the United States. Many of the workers are
      immigrants from Mexico and Guatemala, according to the authors.

      Face-to-face interviews with 200 poultry workers found that 119
      workers (60 percent) reported having one or more of these
      occupational injuries or illnesses in the past month: respiratory,
      skin, leg/foot, neck/back or arm/hand. Musculoskeletal problems were
      the most commonly reported work-related injuries. Thirty-six percent
      of workers surveyed had neck or back pain, and one in three of those
      workers missed work in the past 12 months because of the pain.

      The injuries and illnesses varied by company, but on average
      exceeded rates that plants reported to the Occupational Safety and
      Health Administration. In 2003, a reported 8.1 of every 100 full-time
      poultry workers nationwide were injured or made ill. North Carolina
      reported a 9.4 percent injury and illness rate.

      "The reported rates of illness and injuries in the poultry industry
      are likely to be the tip of the iceberg," write the authors.
      "Workers often see the hazards as just part of the job, or they move
      on to other jobs as they begin to develop symptoms."

      The researchers also found that the prevalence of injuries and
      illnesses varied among companies. For example, 70 percent of workers
      at one company said they had an illness or injury during the previous
      year, compared to less than 30 percent at a second company and less
      than 10 percent at a third company.

      "The differences among the companies are important because, although
      poultry processing is known to be dangerous work, our findings
      indicate that companies can take steps to improve safety - which can
      translate into fewer injuries for their workers," said Quandt.

      The researchers also found that workers at the company with the
      fewest reported injuries perceived a greater emphasis on workplace
      safety compared to workers at the other two companies.

      The researchers said additional research is needed, including
      physical exams to confirm self-reported levels of injuries and
      studies to investigate reasons for reported differences among
      companies in worker-reported health and safety climate.

      The reports' other recommendations include equal enforcement of
      existing occupational safety regulations across all poultry
      processing employers, requiring producers to implement an ergonomics
      program such as described in OHSA's 2004 guidelines. The report also
      recommends that advocacy groups and community agencies should work
      with poultry processing plants to improve workers' safety and health.

      "These policy changes and research will help to identify ways to
      reduce the high rates of occupational illnesses and injuries in
      this vulnerable population," the authors wrote.

      The survey collected data on occupational and psychological health,
      safety training and the safety climate inside the plants. It was
      funded by a grant from the National Institute for Occupational Safety
      and Health. In addition to Quandt, researchers were Joseph Grzywacz,
      Ph.D., Michael Coates, M.D., M.S., Antonio Marin, M.A., and Thomas
      Arcury, Ph.D., all with Wake Forest Baptist; and Bless Burke, M.A.,
      and Lourdes Carrillo, B.S., with Centro Latino.

      Media Contacts: Karen Richardson, krchrdsn@...; Shannon
      Koontz, shkoontz@...; at 336-716-4587

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