Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents|
| Standard Number:||1908.1|
March 20, 2003
Mr. K. Levi Koehler
72 S. State Route 605
Sumbury, OH 43074-8959
Dear Mr. Koehler:
Thank you for your letter to the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed, and may not be applicable to any question or scenario not delineated within your original correspondence. You had concerns about unsafe and unsanitary conditions within the meatpacking industry.
As you may know, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (the Act) created OSHA to, "assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women." Generally, the Act covers employees of private sector employers within the United States and its territories in fields such as (but not limited to) manufacturing, construction, longshoring, shipbuilding, ship breaking, ship repair, medicine, and agriculture.
Since 1970, fatalities at U.S. worksites have been cut in half, and occupational injuries and illnesses have declined 40 percent. Injury and illness rates in more hazardous occupations, such as construction and manufacturing, also continue to decline. The 2000 Injury and Illness data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that workplace injury and illness rates declined in 2000, to the lowest level since the BLS began reporting this data in the early 1970s.
Please be aware that OSHA shares your concerns about workplace safety and health. Meatpacking is just one of many hazardous occupations. According to a 1999 BLS Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, truck drivers suffered the most injuries and illnesses involving days away from work. BLS also reported that out of the nine major private industry groups, Construction accounted for 19.5 percent of reported fatalities in 2000 compared to 11.3 percent in Manufacturing. Clearly, there is more to be done to ensure worker safety and health.
We currently have in place a Site-Specific Targeting (SST) enforcement plan. The SST enforcement plan uses data collected from the annual OSHA Data Initiative (Data Survey) to focus our limited resources on high-risk industries that have Lost Workday Injury and Illness (LWDII) rates above the national average of 3.0. (The incidence rate represents the number of injuries and illnesses per 100 full-time employees.) Industries with a worksite having an LWDII rate at or above 14.0 are initially selected for inspection (approximately 4,000 sites). The enforcement plan uses the most recent data from BLS, which lists meatpacking plants in SIC (Standard Industrial Code) 2011 as having an incident rate of 15.6.
In addition to enforcement, we provide information through publications such as the "Ergonomics Program Management Guidelines for Meatpacking Plants," designed to assist meatpacking industry employers in implementing a comprehensive safety and health program. We have also established a [Meatpacking Technical Links web page], that addresses hazards and provides information on ergonomics, machine guarding, and personal protective equipment, as well as links and reports.
The Voluntary Protection Program (VPP), the Cooperative Partnership program, and state consultation programs also provide ways to reduce injury and illnesses in the meatpacking industry. One meatpacking industry success story is Kluener Packing, Inc., a small meatpacking firm in Cincinnati, Ohio. Kluener decided to work with the OSHA-funded Ohio consultation program to reduce its injuries and illnesses. As a result, the company's LWDII rate dropped from 16.3 in 1988 to 3.0 in 1994, and it became a member of the state's recognition program as a reward for good performance in occupational safety and health.
Increasingly, companies are realizing that a strong safety and health program is good for their employees and business. Another partnership, begun in August 2000 with the Nebraska meat packing industry and safety and health organizations to reduce injuries and fatalities through partnership and outreach, expects to reduce worker's compensation costs and improve morale.
As you may know, [26 states] administer their own occupational safety and health programs under provisions of the Act, with approval and monitoring by Federal OSHA. The Act requires states administering their own plans to promulgate regulations that are, "at least as effective" as the federal regulations, although they may be more stringent.
The state of Ohio is considered a federal enforcement state. If you would like contact information for other state plans you may visit OSHA's [State Plan web site].
If you have any additional questions, comments and/or concerns about the inspection of meats and their quality control procedures, please contact your local U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Service Inspection Service (FSIS) office.
Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. Raising public awareness about working conditions combined with enforcing laws and regulations is an effective means for positive change. To find out more about OSHA, please feel free to visit our website at http://www.osha.gov. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Directorate of Enforcement Programs at (202) 693-1850.
Richard E. Fairfax, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs
Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents|