Scott, Murray, Casey Unveil New Report Showing Need to Protect Meat & Poultry Workers
WASHINGTON – TODAY, Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-03), ranking member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) released the findings of a Government Accountability Office report (GAO) calling for federal agencies, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), to do more to protect workers in meat and poultry plants.
“When workers face intimidation, retribution, or fear losing their jobs for reporting hazards, seeking medical treatment, or simply using the restroom, it is incumbent on federal agencies to increase their responsiveness to those concerns,” said Congressman Scott (VA-03). “In addition, GAO reported that during 2016, 15 meat and poultry plants –all in the southeast—have refused OSHA access to expand complaint inspections to cover additional recognized hazards; this development has impaired OSHA’s ability to protect workers, and should compel the Department of Labor to vigorously defend its statutory authority to enter plants ‘without delay’.”
“Every worker should be able to make a living without risking their health or safety, so it’s deeply concerning to hear workers in meat and poultry factories are knowingly being put in harm’s way,” said Senator Murray (D-WA). “Given this report’s findings and the Trump Administration’s continued efforts to undermine worker protections, it’s clear our nation’s top health and safety agency needs a leader who has a record of fighting for workers lives and livelihoods—and I will continue to press OSHA nominee Scott Mugno on his commitment to put workers ahead of corporations’ bottom lines.”
“This report highlights a number of troubling issues that threaten the health and safety of workers,” said Senator Casey (D-PA). “It is clear that more must be done to address the needs of these workers. The report lays out commonsense steps that could improve the situation.”
The report, entitled “Better Outreach, Collaboration, and Information Needed to Help Protect Workers at Meat and Poultry Plants,” found that plant operators deny production line workers time away from the production line to take bathroom breaks, fail to provide timely and adequate medical care, and expose workers and FSIS inspectors to inadequately tested toxic chemicals. In one region of the country, some plant operators are adopting a legal posture to deny OSHA the ability to expand inspections, arising from worker complaints, to also cover additional recognized hazards in poultry plants.
GAO made the following recommendations:
- OSHA should interview workers away from their workplaces to encourage them to speak up about restroom access. By asking workers specifically about this issue, OSHA will be able to better understand the scope of the problem.
- OSHA should update its 1999 guidance on plant health unit management to make sure workers receive timely, quality care.
- OSHA and FSIS should work together to review and update their 1994 Memorandum of Understanding to maximize collaborative opportunities to protect workers.
- FSIS should develop a process to share chemical safety review information with OSHA, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), FSIS inspectors, and plant management.
- NIOSH should conduct a study of the interaction between peracetic acid and other chemicals used in poultry and meat processing plants to determine the combined effects on workers who come into contact with them daily.
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