This week, on September 17th, 2019, the Trump administration passed a new food inspection policy in Washington, DC that has raised concerns about worker safety. The policy now allows an increase in slaughter line speeds in all US hog processing factories.
According to the Human Rights Watch, increasing the slaughter line speed is threatening worker lives and putting them at risk of severe injuries. The policy, known as the “Modernization of Swine Slaughter Inspection” rule, was announced by the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). FSIS belongs to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The policy essentially states that the maximum slaughter line speeds, which in the past limited the pace of operation for slaughterhouses, have been revoked. According to a report the Human Rights Watch published earlier this month, high-speed slaughter lines are a direct cause of high rates of on-job worker injuries. The report, called “‘When We’re Dead and Buried, Our Bones Will Keep Hurting’: Workers’ Rights Under Threat in US Meat and Poultry Plants,” is about workers in the meat industry.
In the report, researcher Komala Ramachandra stated, “nearly all the workers we interviewed described how intense pressure to keep up with the pace of production has led them to suffer debilitating pain and injury.” Ramachandra, who works in the Business and Human Rights department at the Human Rights Watch, went on to say, “removing limits on line speed for pig slaughter will make already dangerous work conditions even more hazardous.”
The meat and poultry industry sees some of the highest rates of on-job injuries in the US. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports from 2015 to 2018 showed that workers in the meat industry are seriously injured every other day.
In many cases, workers even lose their body parts and/or their lives. According to the same reports, from 2013 to 2017, an average of eight workers died per year due to work-related injuries.
The Human Rights Watch is worried about the loss of USDA control in inspecting line speeds. Before, USDA inspectors were solely charged with inspecting and approving line speeds per food safety laws.
Now, a portion of these responsibilities has been handed over to company employees. The Human Rights Watch states that USDA inspectors cannot slow down line speeds as quickly due to this new rule.
FSIS states that, through this new policy, they have removed unnecessary deterrents in the monitoring process, making the production system more efficient. Its defense of the policy is that it allows the USDA to use its resources more efficiently.
However, the Human Rights Watch disagrees. Ramachandra stated, “these industries need more oversight and transparency, not less. This rule represents an abdication of the administration’s responsibility for protecting American workers’ health and safety.”
Workers are protected from work-related injuries or on-the-job injuries via workers’ compensation insurance. In the meat and poultry industry in particular, the rates for employees receiving workers compensation is high. There have been many cases related to worker’s compensation, including cases of fraud and embezzlement.
If you or anyone you know is viable for workers compensation insurance, you should hire a lawyer. Contact us today to take the first step towards the best possible legal outcome for you.