Workplace safety shines

by Meat&Poultry staff
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WASHINGTON – US meat and poultry packers and processors continued to make significant progress in workplace safety, according to newly-released Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data. BLS numbers reveal a new ‘low’ in non-fatal occupational injuries and illnesses in the meat and poultry sector.

Last year, there were 5.7 cases of occupational injuries and illnesses per 100 workers in the meat and poultry sector, compared to 6.3 in 2012 – a reduction of 9.5 percent.

Historic BLS data reveal the meat and poultry industry has shown continuous improvement over the years, more than halving the injury and illness rate from 14.7 per 100 workers one decade ago. As a result, today it is safer to work in meat and poultry packing and processing than the industries that produce products to cook meat in (kitchen utensil, pot and pan manufacturing.)

“The meat and poultry industry's 500,000 employees are an essential and valued resource,” said Mark Dopp, AMI senior vice president of regulatory affairs and general counsel. “Ensuring the health and safety of our workforce is good for employees and has business benefits, too, as they can perform their jobs in the best manner possible. Safe workplaces are positively correlated with quality, productivity, cost, turnover, and related measures of industry success.”

Two major efforts initiated by the meat industry beginning in 1990 are behind much of the improvement in worker safety over the years. In 1990, the US meat industry, along with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union, developed Voluntary Ergonomic Guidelines for the Meat Packing Industry – which OSHA called a “model” for other industries. The AMI board of directors also deemed workplace safety a non-competitive issue and encouraged their respective company staffs to share information on safety practices. This decision enabled the AMI Worker Safety Committee to pursue a number of safety improvements, including the annual AMI Foundation Conference on Worker Safety and Human Resources, which has occurred annually ever since.
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