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Poultry workers are often severely injured on the job

West Virginia residents may be surprised to learn that serious job-related injuries are more common in the poultry processing sector than they are in the saw mill, steel and auto industries. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration keeps track of workplace accidents and injuries, and a report released in April by the National Employment Law Project using data reported to OSHA between January 2015 and September 2016 revealed that poultry processing was America's 12th most dangerous job.

The researchers behind the NELP study compiled a list of the employers with the most severe injury reports after studying data submitted to OSHA by 14,000 companies in the 29 states that follow federal OSHA. While the U.S. Postal Service and Walmart reported the most serious injuries, meat and poultry processing firms with far smaller work forces occupied the fourth, sixth and 14th places on the list.

During the period studied, poultry processing companies reported 180 severe injuries that resulted in amputations or hospitalization, and OSHA subsequently investigated 86 of these reports. During these investigations, the federal workplace safety agency uncovered 750 violations and found that workers had lost fingers or hands because they were not properly trained, had not been issued with mandatory protective equipment or worked at machines that lacked safety guards.

Employees who suffer serious on-the-job injuries generally seek workers' compensation benefitsunder their employers' insurance coverage, but attorneys will sometimes suggest that they file personal injury lawsuits instead when employers have acted with extreme negligence. This is because employers may be ordered to pay punitive as well as compensatory damages when their lack of concern for their workers' safety amounts to a malicious and reckless intent to cause harm.

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

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