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GAO Report Confirms Meat and Poultry Industry Safer Than Ever

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

NAMI Statement on GAO Worker Safety Report

Washington D.C.—A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) highlights the greatly improved worker safety record of the meat and poultry industry over the last 10 years. According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 2014 incidence rates for non-fatal occupational injuries and illnesses reached a new, all-time industry low of 5.5 cases per 100 full-time workers per year. Historic BLS data reveal that the meat and poultry industry has shown continuous improvement over the years, nearly halving the injury and illness rate from 9.8 per 100 workers in 2004, the last time the GAO published a report on worker safety in the meat and poultry industry. The data show that the meat and poultry industry is safer to work in than the industries that produce products used to cook meat (kitchen utensil, pot and pan manufacturing) and drink with your meal (soft drink and bottled water manufacturing, frozen fruit and vegetable juice manufacturing.) Nor did the meat and poultry industry even make the cut in a recent Time analysis looking at the top 20 most dangerous jobs in America based on work place fatalities.

While the report raises concerns about recordkeeping in the industry, a recent Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) special emphasis evaluating recordkeeping in the meat and poultry industry and several others did not find regular under recording of injuries as alleged in the GAO report.

“Worker safety has been a key priority in the meat industry over the last 25 years and the positive results of our efforts are clear,” said North American Meat Institute (NAMI) President and CEO Barry Carpenter. “There is always room for improvement and we will look closely at the GAO recommendations to see how they can best be implemented in the industry.”

Much of the improvement in worker safety over the years can be attributed to two major efforts initiated by the meat industry beginning in 1990. That year, the U.S. meat industry, together with OSHA and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union, developed Voluntary Ergonomic Guidelines for the Meat Packing Industry—guidelines that OSHA called a “model” for other industries. In addition, the AMI Board of Directors (predecessor to NAMI) deemed workplace safety a non-competitive issue and encouraged their respective company staffs to share information on safety practices. This decision enabled the Association's Worker Safety Committee to pursue a number of safety improvements, including the annual Conference on Worker Safety and Human Resources, which has occurred annually ever since.

GAO representatives were welcomed to this conference for each of the last two years and NAMI experts and industry members thoroughly answered the investigators questions about industry worker safety practices.

More detail on worker safety in the meat and poultry industry, is availablehere and in a recently released Meat MythCrusher video.

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