There are many serious safety and health hazards in the poultry processing industry. These hazards include exposure to high noise levels, dangerous equipment, slippery floors, musculoskeletal disorders, and hazardous chemicals (including ammonia that is used as a refrigerant). Musculoskeletal disorders are of particular concern and continue to be common among workers in the poultry processing industry. Employees can also be exposed to biological hazards associated with handling live birds or exposures to poultry feces and dusts which can increase their risk for many diseases.
Common hazard control measures include:
- implementing an effective ergonomics program,
- implementing an effective hearing conservation program,
- implementing design and maintenance of electrical systems and an effective lockout/tagout program to prevent injury from accidental start up of machinery during maintenance activities,
- providing required personal protective equipment,
- guarding dangerous equipment,
- following OSHA's process safety management standard to protect workers from accidental leaks of ammonia,
- incorporating engineering controls, such as improving sanitation and ventilation measures, to protect workers from biological hazards that can cause, salmonella, psittacosis, campylobacter infection and other diseases,
- maintaining walking/working surfaces to prevent slips, trips and falls,
- implementing OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard requirements and ensuring workers are not exposed to unsafe levels of hazardous chemicals,
- following OSHA standards that require that exit doors are not blocked and not locked while employees are in the building. Employees must be able to open an exit route door from the inside at all times without keys, tools or special knowledge.
Employers must also comply with OSHA’s sanitation standard 29 CFR 1910.141, that requires that toilet facilities must be made readily available and that employees are able to use toilet facilities when needed.
How do I find out about employer responsibilities and workers' rights?
Workers have a right to a safe workplace. The law requires employers to provide their employees with safe and healthful workplaces. The OSHA law also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for exercising their rights under the law (including the right to raise a health and safety concern or report an injury). For more information see www.whistleblowers.gov or Workers' rights under the OSH Act.
OSHA can help answer questions or concerns from employers and workers. To reach your regional or area OSHA office, go to the OSHA Offices by State webpage or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).
Small business employers may contact OSHA's free and confidential On-site Consultation program to help determine whether there are hazards at their worksites and work with OSHA on correcting any identified hazards. Consultants in this program from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing injury and illness prevention programs. On-site Consultation services are separate from enforcement activities and do not result in penalties or citations. To contact OSHA's free consultation service, go to OSHA's On-site Consultation web page or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) and press number 4.
Workers may file a complaint to have OSHA inspect their workplace if they believe that their employer is not following OSHA standards or that there are serious hazards. Workers can file a complaint with OSHA by calling 1-800-321-OSHA (6742), online via eComplaint Form, or by printing the complaint form and mailing or faxing it to the local OSHA area office. Complaints that are signed by a worker are more likely to result in an inspection.
If you think your job is unsafe or if you have questions, contact OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742). Your contact will be kept confidential. We can help. For other valuable worker protection information, such as Workers' Rights, Employer Responsibilities, and other services OSHA offers, visit OSHA's Workers' page.
- Letter from USDA/OSHA to the Poultry Industry. (June 12, 2015)
- Poultry Workers: Protect Your Health!. OSHA Publication 3820, (2015). Also available in Spanish.
- Protect Your Health - Report Your Injuries and Illnesses. OSHA Publication 3769, (2015). Also available in Spanish.
- Updated Guidelines: Prevention of Musculoskeletal Injuries in Poultry Processing (EPUB | MOBI). OSHA Publication 3213, (2013).
- Joint Letter from FSIS and OSHA to the Poultry Industry. (August 1, 2014)
- Evaluation of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Other Musculoskeletal Disorders at a Poultry Processing Plant. (2015).
- NIOSH BLOG: High Prevalence of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Poultry Plant Workers. (April 6, 2015)
- NIOSH Poultry Topic Page: Resources to prevent injuries and illnesses
- Evaluation of Musculoskeletal Disorders and Traumatic Injuries Among Employees at a Poultry Processing Plant. NIOSH found very high rates of musculoskeletal disorders among South Carolina poultry plant workers. NIOSH also noted potential underreporting of work-related injuries on company medical clinical data and that the company had only implemented a few of its earlier recommendations to prevent musculoskeletal disorders.
- Poultry Processing Industry. OSHA eTool. Focuses on identifying and controlling major hazards that contributed to the high rates of injuries.