Manufacturing Injury prevention

Coalition calls for standard to reduce poultry line speeds

Washington – As the Department of Agriculture continues to consider increasing line speeds at poultry-processing plants, a coalition of civil rights groups has petitioned USDA and OSHA to issue a rule setting a reduced line speed.

USDA’s proposed rule would increase line speeds to 175 birds per minute from the current 140 – an action that a number of groups claim would lead to more worker injuries.

In the petition, issued Sept. 3, the coalition asks USDA to reconsider its proposed rule. The group also calls on OSHA to promulgate standards that limit line speeds in poultry and meatpacking facilities, and address injuries caused by keeping up with line speeds. Currently, USDA regulates line speeds while OSHA has voluntary guidelines.

“The pressure to keep up with current speeds imposes a tremendous toll on workers’ health and safety; the impending speed-up makes the need for a clear OSHA work speed standard all the more urgent,” the petition states.

The coalition consists of 15 separate groups, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Coalition of Poultry Workers and the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health.