U.S. Department of Labor Seeks to Protect Food Processing Workers

Significantly higher injury rates among food production workers in Illinois and Ohio have prompted OSHA to step up its outreach and enforcement efforts.

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The following is an edited version of the original press release.

With injury rates among the more than 90,000 food production workers in Illinois and Ohio significantly higher than other manufacturing workers, the U.S. Department of Labor has stepped up its outreach and enforcement efforts to reduce workplace hazards and better protect workers in these states.

In October, the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration began an initial outreach phase of a Local Emphasis Program focused on more than 1,400 manufacturing facilities in Illinois and Ohio where year-round and seasonal workers manufacture and process confectionery, animal, fruit, and vegetable-based products.

Once OSHA completes the three-month outreach effort, the program empowers the agency to schedule and inspect select food industry employers in Illinois and Ohio whose injury rates exceed the state average among all manufacturers.

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“With the establishment of this Local Emphasis Program, OSHA will stress to employers the importance of taking steps to identify, reduce, and eliminate workers’ exposure to machine hazards,” says OSHA Regional Administrator Bill Donovan in Chicago. “Employers have a legal responsibility to provide a safe and healthful workplace whether workers are employed for a day, a season or year-round. This responsibility includes providing workers with training and orientation in the language they understand and making sure proper safety precautions and procedures are followed to prevent serious or fatal injuries.” 

In its outreach phase, OSHA will raise safety and health awareness with employers, professional associations, local safety councils, apprenticeship programs, local hospitals, and occupational health clinics. Agency representatives will also deliver presentations to industry organizations and stakeholders, and encourage employers to use OSHA’s free consultation services to help them implement machine safety strategies and ensure compliance with OSHA standards.

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