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GAO reports on meatpacking industry safety concerns

The Government Accountability Office issued a report in November 2017 concerning the safety concerns of meat and poultry workers. Workers in this industry in Connecticut should be aware of what the report states as well as what OSHA’s response to it was.

The report first of all recommends that OSHA, together with NIOSH and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service, should investigate worker complaints within the meat and poultry industry. The GAO specifically mentioned the lack of bathroom access among employees, a frequent complaint that has plagued the industry since the late ’90s and led to countless injuries.

The GAO suggests that OSHA interview workers off-site because many have reason to believe that if they complained in the presence of their employer, they would be retaliated against. OSHA’s field operations manual itself states that workers should be able to communicate openly with health and safety compliance officers. The manual also makes allowance for interviews away from the workplace.

However, OSHA responded by rejecting the suggestions made in the GAO report. The agency claimed that conducting off-site interviews would bring up issues regarding inspector safety and witness cooperation, among other things. Two members of the Senate and two members of the House of Representatives have now called on the secretary of labor to address these issues with OSHA.

The meat and poultry industry is one of the most dangerous in the U.S. Most workers who are injured on the job are eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits, and an attorney can often be of assistance in the preparation and filing of the required claim.

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