Meat MythCrushers videos address industry misperceptions

by Bob Sims
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WASHINGTON – Two new videos in the Meat MythCrusher series featuring Dennis Burson, Ph.D., professor meat extension and food safety specialist at the Univ. of Nebraska, address long held myths about worker safety and how line speeds are regulated in the meat and poultry industry.

Burson notes meat industry improvements and how they’ve led to considerable benefits to worker safety. Injury and illness rates in the meat and poultry industry are at an all-time low with 5.5 cases per 100 full-time workers per year in 2014, according to Dept. of Labor statistics, a substantial improvement over 10.3 per 100 10 years ago and 24.3 per 100 20 years ago.

“The industry took a very strong approach to worker safety as there are economic incentives to not have injuries in your workers,” Burson said. “Over the years there have been several things done to try to prevent injuries and illness in the workforce.”

The creation of “Voluntary Ergonomic Guidelines for the Meat Packing Industry” developed in 1990 with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the United Food and Commercial Workers union has significantly driven worker safety, explained Burson. OSHA has called it a model for other industries.

In the second video, Burson clarifies that USDA inspectors determine maximum line speeds and slow down processing lines if concern for food safety, worker safety or animal welfare exist. He adds that how the line is staffed should be the focal point and that a line can move more quickly with a heavier staff.

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