WASHINGTON – New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that US meat and poultry packers and processors have reached an all-time industry best for non-fatal occupational injuries and illnesses, according to the American Meat Institute (AMI).

Cases of occupational injuries and illnesses per 100 workers in the meat and poultry sector declined 7.2 percent in 2011 to 6.4 cases from 6.9 cases. Past BLS data show that the meat and poultry industry has steadily improved over time, halving the injury and illness rate from 14.7 per 100 workers a decade ago, AMI said.

“The meat and poultry industry's 500,000 employees are an essential and valued resource,” said J. Patrick Boyle, AMI president and CEO. “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.”

Boyle said much of the improvement in worker safety can be attributed to two major initiatives begun in 1990. First, the meat industry, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union, developed Voluntary Ergonomic Guidelines for the Meat Packing Industry. Also, the AMI board of directors deemed worker safety a non-competitive issue and encouraged information sharing on safety practices.