U.S. meat and poultry packers and processors continued to make significant progress in workplace safety in 2017, as the newly released Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) incidence rate for non-fatal occupational injuries and illnesses reached an all-time industry low.
In 2017, there were 4.8 cases of occupational injuries and illnesses per 100 full-time workers in the meat and poultry sector. This figure represents an improvement from the previous industry low of 5.3 cases of occupational injuries and illnesses per 100 workers recorded in 2016. Historic BLS data reveal that the meat and poultry industry has continued to make substantial worker safety progress, as the number of non-fatal occupational injuries and illnesses has been cut in half during the past 12 years.
The most serious injuries, those included in the “Days Away, Restricted, or Job Transfer (DART)” rate, totaled 3.6 cases per 100 workers, and matched the lowest rate ever recorded for the meat and poultry industry. In 2016, the DART incidence rate was 4.4 cases per 100 full-time workers.
“Worker safety progress is one of our industry’s greatest success stories, as evidenced by the more than 80 percent decline in injury and illness rates in the past 20 years,” said North American Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Anna Potts. “This significant progress demonstrates the industry’s steadfast commitment to provide a safe, healthy work environment to the more than 500,000 employees who produce the world’s safest, most nutritious and affordable meat and poultry supply.”
In the early 1990s, the Meat Institute declared worker safety a non-competitive issue, which encouraged member companies to collaborate to find solutions that prioritized and enhanced worker safety. The meat industry, together with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union, also developed Voluntary Ergonomic Guidelines for the Meat Packing Industry — guidelines that OSHA called a “model” for other industries.
The Meat Institute convenes an annual conference on worker safety and presents awards to meat and poultry plants that have achieved high levels of workplace safety performance. The 2019 Worker Safety Conference for the Meat and Poultry Industry will take place February 11-12, 2019, in conjunction with the International Production and Processing Expo in Atlanta, Georgia. The Worker Safety Recognition Awards will be presented during the Meat Institute’s Annual Awards Ceremony and Luncheon on February 12 in Atlanta.