Kimberly Kindy reports on the attempt by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to call bullshit on the conclusions that the USDA is drawing from a report on the effect of a pilot program to speed up poultry production lines.
In a March 26 blog post, USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service director Al Almanza said the study shows line speed increases are “not a significant factor in worker safety.” USDA officials have offered a similar interpretation to members of Congress and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights over the past several weeks.
However, NIOSH Director John Howard chastised USDA officials, last week, saying he was “quite surprised” by the agency’s assertions. “It’s impossible to draw a conclusion about the impact of line speed changes on worker health” from the NIOSH study,” Howard said in a letter to Almanza, adding that to do so “is misleading.”
Howard said NIOSH “found an alarming 42% prevalence of carpal tunnel syndrome” among workers during its first assessment at a plant in South Carolina. When NIOSH returned a second time, some 10 months later, they were not surprised to find the injury rates were about the same.
What’s stunning is that the USDA felt that a 47% rate of carpal tunnel was an acceptable base rate against which to judge the effect of a speed up. Wow.