Leading the fight for safe and healthy workplaces

You are here

USDA’s proposed poultry rule puts workers’ safety on the line

A proposed rule by the U.S. Department of Agriculture would increase poultry processing line speeds and remove hundreds of federal inspectors from poultry processing plants. The proposal, which would modify USDA’s poultry slaughter inspection program, increases the poultry line speed to an unsafe level and allows plant employees to replace federal government inspectors for certain inspection activities.

Under the proposal, line speed on poultry inspection lines would increase from 70-90 birds a minute to an eye-popping 175 birds a minute. For you mathematicians out there, yes, that means inspecting a bird every one-third of a second.

“This proposal that would allow drastic increases in poultry line speeds would have potentially devastating effects not only for consumers, but also for workers on the line,” said Tom O’Connor, executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health. “At current line speeds, thousands of workers already suffer from repetitive strain injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome—this proposal would likely cause many more. In addition, at faster work speeds, poultry plant workers may be more exposed to knife cuts, toxic chemicals and other hazards.”

The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health joined 21 other groups and 14 individuals today in urging the USDA to withdraw the proposal. Learn more.

And just for fun, tell us what you think you could do in one-third of a second: Blink? Wink? Snap your fingers? Sneeze? Definitely not inspect a chicken.