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Report highlights poultry processing injury rates

New Jersey residents may not know that workers in the poultry processing sector are more likely to suffer severe work-related injuries than workers at saw mills, automobile manufacturing plants and steel mills. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration considers an injury serious when an amputation, the loss of an eye or hospitalization are involved, and poultry processing workers suffer a disproportionately high number of them.

Researchers from the National Employment Law Project scrutinized OSHA accident reports gathered from employers in 29 states between 2015 and 2016, and they then ranked organizations based on how many severe injuries they had reported. The researchers noticed that poultry processing firms occupied the fourth and sixth places on the list despite having work forces a fraction of the size of organizations like Walmart and the U.S. Postal Service.

The company with the fourth highest number of severe injuries reported 70 work-related hospitalizations or amputations over a 21-month period, and the company in sixth place on the NELP list submitted 51 such reports. A policy brief released by NELP along with the report points out that many of these injuries occurred because workers were not properly trained, the machinery they operated lacked crucial safety features or they had not been issued with equipment mandated by OSHA safety regulations.

Attorneys with experience in this area will generally advise injured workers to file workers' compensation claims, but they could suggest that they pursue personal injury lawsuits instead when companies have acted so negligently that injuries became inevitable. Employers are expected to do all that they reasonably can to protect their workers from illness and injury, and this is especially true when the work being done is dangerous and highly regulated.

Source: The National Employment Law Project, OSHA Severe Injury Data from 29 States, Debbie Berkowitz and Hooman Hedayati, April 2017

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