Anybody working in a factory that operates in a streamlined system knows that efficiency and safety are important calculations that affect the company’s bottom line. Sometimes however, it is difficult to increase the two at the same rate and North Carolina companies must not sacrifice safety for the sake of efficiency. The problem with the poultry industry is that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is asking those companies and line workers to do just that.
The USDA has just proposed an increase in line speeds that places the lowest wage earning workers at risk. An increase in line speeds could add to an already dangerous work environment. Line workers already struggle to keep up with the hectic pace of poultry conveyer belts and the USDA is now telling plants that they my increase those line speeds to 175 birds per minute.
In the past few years, the poultry industry has been able to reduce overall injuries, yet industry experts warn against assuming that this means that it is time to ramp up production. They worry that the new allowances will push the limits of what may be safe for the line workers and sacrifice standards that ultimately affect the consumers.
Poultry industry workers already suffer many injuries at the workplace due to the over 20,000 cutting motions they make in any given workday. Adding more birds per minute and expecting efficiency to increase may be risking too much too soon. Only time and experience will tell us whether the USDA or the industry workplace safety experts are right.
Source: Charlotte Observer, “New poultry rule could harm workers, advocates say,” Lindsay Wise, Dec. 18, 2012
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