OSHA seeks to protect food processing workers in high-injury states

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Wednesday that it has launched a local emphasis program aiming to reduce the higher rates of injuries among the more than 90,000 food production workers in Illinois and Ohio.

The program, which began Oct. 3, started with an initial outreach 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.

Between 2016 and 2020, OSHA says it investigated multiple fatalities, along with dozens of workers suffering amputations, fractures and crushed hands or fingers. Investigators often determined that the employers commonly failed to control hazardous energy or allowed workers to operate machines without adequate guarding.

In 2019, OSHA found that food production workers in Ohio had a nearly 57% higher rate of amputations and 16% higher rate of fractures compared with the overall rates for manufacturers in the private sector. In Illinois, these workers experienced a nearly 29% higher rate of amputations and 14% percent higher rate of fractures when compared to rates for private-sector manufacturing jobs.

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. In April 2022, OSHA established a similar program in Wisconsin, according to the announcement.

This article was first published in Business Insurance.

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