Attorney Matthew R. Arnold answering the question: “I have been injured on another person’s property. What should I do now?”
Chicken processing plants are big business across the southern U.S., especially here in North Carolina where thousands of workers are employed in poultry plants. Though the jobs can be important for some rural communities, the dangers posed by working in the plants can be tremendous.
Just last month a poultry processing plant in Raeford, NC was ordered to pay tens of thousands of dollars in fines for releasing untreated wastewater into the city’s treatment plant. The water contained blood and turkey parts and was sent directly to the treatment plant without any warning. The investigation found that the company ordered employees to handle the potentially harmful waste before it was sent out into the town’s water supply.
The news of the North Carolina incident, which jeopardized the health and safety of plant workers, mirrors the conclusion of a recent report issued by the Southern Poverty Law Center, called “Unsafe at These Speeds”. The report found that workers in poultry plants are often exposed to dangerous work conditions and suffer injuries at much higher rates than other workers.
The problem the report zeroed in on was that workers at chicken plants are required to work at an unsustainably fast pace. The grueling workload puts workers at risk for injuries and also exposes them to harmful and even toxic substances. Given the cold temperatures in the plants and the repetitive work, muscle pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, back and shoulder problems are all very common. In fact, the risk is so high that the study found that workers at chicken plants are almost 2.5 times more likely to have severe carpal tunnel than non-poultry industry workers.
Lung disease is also common among those in the plants given their exposure to dead birds, which sometimes contain histoplasmosis, something that leads to a serious respiratory disease. Workers are often exposed to dangerous chemicals used to treat the dead birds as well as bodily fluids from the birds themselves and, due to a lack of protective gear, frequently get such fluids in their eyes and mouths.
Sadly, the report also found that the typical workers at such plants, especially in the South, are often vulnerable to mistreatment. Workers frequently are non-native English speakers and can be threatened with firing and even deportation if they complain about their work conditions. Reports indicate that workers who do complain are either threatened or ignored, often so that no one has to slow down the production line.
The report concluded with a warning about future changes that could only increase the danger to poultry plant workers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will soon announce new rules that it intends to use to increase the maximum number of birds that workers can process each minute as well as reduce the number of health inspectors present on each production line.
The agency has said it believes the changes will save both the government and the chicken industry millions of dollars, but others fear it will only harm those working in the plants. Already workers only have 1/3 of a second to handle each of the 140 birds that can be processed each minute. If the USDA has its way, that number will increase to 175, increasing the pace of work and the risk of injury for employees.
If you, or someone you know, have any questions regarding personal injury claims, please feel free to contact the experienced workers’ compensation attorneys and lawyers in Charlotte, North Carolina at Arnold & Smith, PLLC for a free consultation. Call at 704-370-2828.
“NC poultry plant fined for wastewater violations,” by Chris Phillips, published at WWAYTV3.com.
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