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Meat and poultry worker safety the subject of a GAO report

The Government Accountability Office has released a report analyzing the ways that OSHA, together with the Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service, has been addressing safety concerns in the meat and poultry industry. West Virginia workers in this industry are probably aware of the dangers, which can include exposure to hazardous chemicals and fatigue from increased line speeds. Many are even denied the proper number of bathroom breaks.

OSHA, the report states, is faced with a major challenge: insufficient data to use for reference when addressing safety concerns. This is due to the fact that many employees in the meat and poultry industry are afraid of retaliation and wind up never reporting injuries and violations. However, new enforcement programs and reporting requirements have increased the number of annual OSHA inspections. Compared to 177 in 2005, the agency conducted 244 inspections in 2016.

The report also points out a lack of information sharing between OSHA and the FSIS. The latter also has no way to share information about hazardous chemicals. Some FSIS officials, though they have been trained by OSHA, seem reluctant to report hazards out of fear that OSHA will inspect their agency. The GOA encourages better collaboration between OSHA and the FSIS, in accordance with the 1994 memorandum of understanding that both agencies signed.

Most victims of on-the-job accidents have the right to file for workers' compensation benefits. However, to many, the process can be somewhat confusing, especially when they are dealing with debilitating injuries. An attorney can often assist with the preparation of the claim and can help to ensure that it is filed within the required time period.

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