For almost 35 years, the poultry industry has been at the forefront of efforts to reduce musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in the workplace. The industry’s engagement in the prevention and early treatment of MSDs can serve as a model for other industries that are also facing the challenges of dealing with the problematic issues associated with these injuries. 

In January 2010, the study Ergonomics in the Poultry Industry: A Review of 25 Years of Industry Efforts was released. The study chronicled the progress made and the successes earned concerning ergonomics, including the significant decrease in MSDs. It also discusses how the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has focused its attention on the poultry industry over this period and the positive results that have come from joint OSHA and industry efforts.  

As we approach the year 2020, the Joint Industry Safety and Health Council has issued a recommissioning of this study to highlight the advances in ergonomics the industry has made in the past decade. The council is composed of members representing the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association, the National Turkey Federation and the National Chicken Council. The council has forged positive dialogue with OSHA to review and update, as necessary, the extensive ergonomic training materials developed 10 to 15 years ago by the council in conjunction with the Georgia Tech Research Institute, the medical community and OSHA. These training materials will be offered to industry members in an online, self-paced USPOULTRY Learning Management System (LMS). The LMS delivery of training will allow for more accessible review and update by the council in the future.

Over the last 25 years, the industry has seen a steady improvement in our OSHA recordable injury and illness rate, narrowing what was once a sizable gap between poultry processing injury/illness rates and all private industry rates. However, although considerable progress has been made in overall injury rates, there is still more to be done in regards to upper extremity MSD rates. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) incidence rates (per 10,000 full-time employees) for non-fatal injuries involving days away from work in 2017 show a rate of 36 versus 29 for all general industry. The council has accepted the challenge to work on collaborative pathways with OSHA and other industry experts to continue to reduce injury and illnesses in the poultry industry. NP