USDA Making Hog Slaughterhouse Jobs More Efficient—And Less Safe

A new rule proposed by the USDA to increase line speeds and reduce government inspections at U.S. hog slaughterhouses will likely cause increased workplace injuries and higher risk of foodborne illness.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is proposing a rule to make hog slaughterhouse operations faster, more efficient, and less dependent on government inspections. For many, though, increased speed is not a good thing. In fact, it’s a major hazard to employees and consumers.

The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (COSH) is a vocal opponent of the rule, saying it is not safe and is potentially based off incorrect or skewed data. Slaughterhouse employees are already at high risk of occupational injuries from machinery and foodborne illnesses. In fact, meatpacking workers experience a higher rate of occupational illness that is fifteen times higher than workers nationwide.

“Working in a slaughterhouse is a difficult, dangerous job,” said Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of National COSH. “Speeding up production lines will make these jobs even more difficult and more dangerous. Workers will be at a greater risk of getting sick, injured – or killed.”

The data used in the rulemaking process is currently being investigated. The USDA inspector general is looking into whether the agency used flawed data and concealed information from the public during rulemaking process. The investigation is expected to conclude at the end of the 2019 year.

“There is no reason – other than the demands of industry – to rush forward with a new, potentially dangerous rollback of essential safety regulations.” said Martinez. “We don’t even know yet if this rule is based on solid scientific evidence. There is every reason to proceed deliberately when the health and well-being of so many workers and consumers is at stake.”

The proposed USDA rule will remove line speed limits from plants that are projected to account for more than 90 percent of the nation’s pork production. On average, pork producers slaughter an average of 1,100 hogs per hour.

While the rule will affect slaughterhouse employees, it will also affect consumers by reducing the number of safety inspections. By reducing government inspection visits, the rule will allow some firms to use their own employees to inspect for fecal matter and other contaminants on pork processing lines. Various reports have suggested the inherent issues and problems associated with “self-inspection”—the USDA Office of Inspector General even has its own report.

Despite the proposed USDA rule, pork processing workers still have a right, under the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Act, to a workplace free of preventable hazards. The fate of this rule, and the hog slaughterhouse industry, is a subject to change depending on the approval of this rule.

Download Center

HTML - No Current Item Deck
  • Safety Management Software - Free Demo

    IndustrySafe Safety Software’s comprehensive suite of modules help organizations to record and manage incidents, inspections, hazards, behavior based safety observations, and much more. Improve safety with an easy to use tool for tracking, notifying and reporting on key safety data.

  • Create Flexible Safety Dashboards

    IndustrySafe’s Dashboard Module allows organizations allows you to easily create and view safety KPIs to help you make informed business decisions. Our best of breed default indicators can also save you valuable time and effort in monitoring safety metrics.

  • Get the Ultimate Guide to OSHA Recordkeeping

    OSHA’s Form 300A posting deadline is February 1! Are you prepared? To help answer your key recordkeeping questions, IndustrySafe put together this guide with critical compliance information.

  • The 4 Stages of an Incident Investigation

    So, your workplace has just experienced an incident resulting in the injury or illness of a worker. Now what? OSHA recommends that you conduct investigations of workplace incidents using a four-step system.

  • Why Is Near Miss Reporting Important?

    A near miss is an accident that's waiting to happen. Learn how to investigate these close calls and prevent more serious incidents from occurring in the future.

  • Industry Safe

Free Whitepaper

Stand Your Ground: A Guide to Slip Resistance in Industrial Safety Footwear

This white paper helps to clarify this complexity, so you can better navigate the standards and better ensure the safety of your employees.

Download Now →

OH&S Digital Edition

  • OHS Magazine Digital Edition - November December 2019

    November/December 2019

    Featuring:

    • GAS DETECTION
      Redefining Compliance for the Gas Detection Buyer
    • FALL PROTECTION
      Don't Trip Over the Basics
    • VISION PROTECTION
      What to Look for in Head-to-Toe PPE Solutions
    • PROTECTIVE APPAREL
      Effective PPE for Flammable Dust
    View This Issue