WASHINGTON – Trade groups representing the poultry industry say attempts by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to expand its authority to conduct wall-to-wall inspections of the poultry processing plants goes beyond the scope of legal limits.

The poultry industry’s concern stems from a memorandum issued on Oct. 28, 2015 in which OSHA said any accident, complaint or referral would serve as probable cause for conducting a wall-to-wall inspection of a processing facility. The reason for the expanded inspections, according to ‘outreach letters’ contained in OSHA regional notices, is that “Despite the efforts of the poultry processing industry in past years to address workplace hazards, the poultry processing industry continues to yield occupational injury and illness rates which exceed the national injury and illness indicators for general industry.” The provision was included in Regional Emphasis Program (REP) notices dated Oct. 26 and Oct. 27, 2015.

Therefore, under the new inspection procedures “… If an employer refuses to allow the compliance officer to perform a comprehensive inspection under this program to cover poultry processing operations, a warrant shall be sought in accordance with procedures in the current FOM [Federal Operations Manual].”

OSHA’s guidance also instructs inspectors to expand unprogrammed inspections into a comprehensive inspection.

“It is this aspect of OSHA’s program and memorandum — expanding unprogrammed, complaint-based inspections into comprehensive, or wall-to-wall, inspections — that raises serious Fourth Amendment concerns,” the letter said.

There are legal limits on when and how OSHA may inspect processing facilities, the industry argued. In a letter to Patrick Kapust, deputy director, Directorate of Enforcement Programs, dated March 4, the US Poultry & Egg Association (USPOULTRY), National Chicken Council and National Turkey Federation expressed its concerns to the agency saying “… we continue to believe that OSHA’s October 2015 REP and the October 28 Memorandum declaring the intention to expand narrow complaint and referral investigations in poultry processing facilities to wall-to-wall investigations overstep the legal boundaries of the Fourth Amendment’s bar on unreasonable searches and seizures...”

The industry also requested that OSHA reissue its Oct. 28 memorandum and the regional emphasis program after removing the selection criteria for expanding unprogrammed inspections into comprehensive inspections.