The culture of fear among poultry workers

Poultry workers in Minnesota and across the country face a unique set of hazards in the course of carrying out their work. However, some poultry workers feel afraid to tell federal inspectors about workplace hazards or workplace injuries they sustain. They're fearful that if they talk, they may lose their employment.

All of this has been challenging for OSHA. If employees are too scared to talk about the hazards or injuries they face, there is very little that OSHA can do to identify what the challenges poultry workers are facing are and to take steps to protect them. One challenge for the workers lies in the way that OSHA does interviews on workplace safety. OSHA interviews employees on-site, so anonymity is not an option.

According to the US Government Accountability Office, many employees are concerned about access to restroom facilities. Their request to use the restroom is either completely denied or delayed. Reports from Oxfam America allege that in some poultry plants, workers are not allowed to take restroom breaks. This has led some to opt to wear diapers while working on the line.

Other concerns revolve around medical care that is offered on-site. The GAO is attempting to work with OSHA to encourage employees to be more upfront about the challenges that they face while also providing recommendations on things that can make the workplace safer. The challenge that they face is overcoming the climate of fear that seems to permeate many poultry plants.

If an employee at a poultry plant was injured or killed because of negligence on the part of their employer, OSHA may pursue a workplace safety investigation. If it shows that fault is with the employer, the employee or their family must decide if they will accept workers' compensation or file a lawsuit. A personal injury attorney can help a victim or their family members to evaluate the case and work together to decide the best course of action to follow.

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