More safety and health inspectors needed: Unions

06-09-2006 | | |

Union representatives in the US say that recent alleged occupational safety and health violations by poultry plants in the US indicate that there is a widespread problem in the industry.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) needs to employ more inspectors and make more regular inspections, according to the unions. The violations are reportedly especially problematic in plants with a high number of migrant workers.

Last month, one Alabama company was cited for 21 serious safety violations, two of which were repeat violations and one of which was a recordkeeping violation. Among the violations at the plant were blocked exits, unsafe floors, inadequate personal protective equipment, inadequate machine guarding and more. The total cost of the fines is $143,000.

The citations were the result of a federal complaint lodged by the Southern Poverty Law Center and Southern Migrant Legal Services (SMLS), which provide legal assistance to immigrant and migrant workers.

Booth Gunter with the Center’s Immigrant Justice Project praised OSHA for their citations in the case. But Gunter said the agency does not have nearly enough staff to adequately enforce its poultry regulations.

OSHA relies heavily on employee complaints to target plants for inspection, but when a plant employs large numbers of immigrant workers who may not speak English, have legal status or even know how OSHA can help them, that approach becomes ineffective, Gunter said.

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