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11.20.2017 Legal News

OSHA Seeks to Pluck Poultry Processors

Late in 2016, OSHA’s Region 4 implemented a Regional Emphasis Program consisting of outreach and enforcement activities designed to reduce injuries, illnesses and fatalities at poultry processing facilities.  OSHA’s directive indicates that inspections will be conducted at either live-kill or further processing operations, and facilities will be selected at random based on a regional list of establishments.  Region 4 covers most of the Southeast including Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee.  Although these states manage their own OSHA programs, Emphasis Programs from OSHA are often followed by state regulators.  Since OSHA penalties at the federal and state levels nearly doubled beginning in 2017, an inspection and a finding of violations may result in significant penalties for a poultry processor.

According to OSHA, serious injuries in the poultry industry are twice as high as other private industries because workers are exposed to numerous serious hazards, including dangerous equipment, musculoskeletal disorders, infectious pathogens, high noise levels, and hazardous chemicals.  OSHA also claims statistics show an elevated risk for work-related illnesses.  As a result, the Emphasis Program indicates that inspections will focus on production operations, sanitation, working conditions, chemical handling and use, and process safety management systems.  The inspector will likely request training, medical and other records during the inspection.

To assist in addressing and correcting potential violations, OSHA is conducting outreach activities for employers, such as training sessions and information sharing activities.  Because these inspections are ongoing, now is the time for companies to review workplace procedures and protocols to ensure safety programs comply with regulatory standards.  Failing to address deficiencies could be a costly mistake.

OSHA Regional Notice, Regional Emphasis Programs for Poultry Processing Facilities, Directive No. CPL 17/09 (Oct. 26, 2016)