Walking wounded

by Erica Shaffer
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AUSTIN, Texas – Concerns over lost wages and the desire to support their co-workers are the main reasons food workers go to work sick, the Center for Research and Public Policy (CRPP) said in its “Mind of the Food Worker” study.

CRPP reported that 51 percent of employees said they always or frequently go to work when sick, with more than 45 percent saying they can’t afford to lose pay. More than 46 percent said they didn’t want to let their co-workers down by not showing up for work. However, managers reported only 18 percent of their employees come to work sick, CRPP noted.

“The vast majority of frontline food workers and their employers are committed to providing safe foods for their customers,” said Jeff Eastman, CEO of Alchemy Systems, which commissioned the study. “The survey shows that over 90 percent of food workers feel responsible for the safety and well-being of their customers. So managers and supervisors need to better communicate why it's okay to stay home when sick.”

The CRPP polled more than 1,200 food workers across the supply chain — farms, processing plants, cafeterias, restaurants and grocery stores in the US and Canada.

Other notable findings in the survey include:

• 87 percent of frontline workers said they would serve the food they make to their families and children;
• 24 percent of workers reported being injured on the job;
• 17 percent of worker injuries occurred during their first year on the job; and
• 93 percent of workers felt confident to stop work if they see a safety or product problem.

“While these findings are positive overall, there is always room for improvement," Eastman said. “For example, while 93 percent of workers feel confident to stop work when they see a safety problem, it still leaves 7 percent of 20 million workers who do not. When it comes to safety, that number needs to be 100 percent.”

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