U.S. meat and poultry packers and processors continued to make significant progress in workplace safety reaching an all-time low rate of worker injuries and illnesses in 2018 according to a newly released Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) annual report.
“The data continues to prove the meat and poultry industry is committed to the highest standards of well-being of its employees,” said North American Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Anna Potts. “The success of our industry depends on a safe and healthy work environment for the 800,000 people who produce meat and poultry.”
Meat industry incident rates improved from both 2017 and 2016 levels, reaching a new, all time industry low of 4.3 cases per 100 full-time workers (per year). The most serious injuries, those included in the “Days Away, Restricted, or Job Transfer (DART)” rate, also dropped from 2017’s 4.6 to 2018’s 3.6, also the lowest rates ever recorded.
In 2008, just 10 years ago, the industry incident rate was 10.3, while in 1998 the incidence rate was 20.1. A twenty-year injury rate reduction from 20.1 to 10.3 to 4.3 illustrates the sustained industry trend of workplace safety improvement.
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. In 2019, worker safety was identified as a key pillar in the Meat Institute’s sustainability efforts and the industry will develop additional metrics and targets for continuous improvement over the next decade.
OSHA closely and regularly monitors the record keeping of employers to ensure that injuries are reported. Significant lapses in recordkeeping would result in OSHA issuing citations and levying fines. OSHA has not had a significant complaint against a meatpacker for decades. Workers injured on the job receive compensation, and their rights as workers are guaranteed by federal law.
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 2020 Worker Safety Conference for the Meat and Poultry Industry will take place January 28-29, 2020, 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 January 28th in Atlanta.