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POULTRY INDUSTRY WORKERS

Poultry Slaughter and Evisceration

Poultry slaughter and evisceration processes begin with off-loading live poultry from transport trucks after arrival at processing plants. Following off-loading, workers typically shackle the birds in a hanging room after which they are stunned, killed, bled-out, and de-feathered. Evisceration, or removal of the birds’ internal organs, follows during which the birds are washed and inspected. After evisceration, the birds are placed in chiller baths of water and anti-microbial agents to reduce pathogen loading. A variety of chemicals are present in facilities where poultry slaughter and evisceration occur that may present an occupational hazard. Potential exposures include ammonia used in refrigeration systems, chlorine or other antimicrobial chemicals applied by spray cabinets and dip tanks, and sanitation chemicals used to clean equipment. Exposures to high levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) may result from the use of CO2 as an acidifying agent. Reports of health effects during poultry slaughter and evisceration have often included eye and respiratory irritation, thought to be related to airborne chlorine or other anti-microbial-related compounds. Similar to reports from poultry catchers at poultry houses and confinement units, respiratory symptoms have also been associated with exposures to organic dust and bacterial endotoxins generated during poultry shackling and hanging operations. Temperature extremes may be experienced at workers in these types of facilities as well as high noise levels. Musculoskeletal disorders and occupational injuries have also been reported. This section provides links to information and investigations about the evaluation and control of these and other potential exposures during poultry slaughter and evisceration.

Woman cleaning poultry inside a plant

Biological Hazards

CDC and NIOSH Publications and Resources:

CDC Diseases and Conditions: Campylobacter jejuni Infection [Campylobacteriosis]

CDC Diseases and Conditions: Chlamydophila psittaci Infection [Psittacosis]

CDC Diseases and Conditions: E. coli Infection [Escherichia coli Infection]

CDC Diseases and Conditions: Salmonella Infection [Salmonellosis]

NIOSH Health Hazards Evaluation Report: HETA 2011-0058-3157, Campylobacter Infection and Exposures among Employees at a Poultry Processing Plant - Virginia. (evaluation of the occurrence of Campylobacter infections at the plant, especially among live hang area employees)

NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation Report: HETA-1991-0165-2199, Simmons Industries, Siloam Springs, Arkansas (evaluation of airborne bacterial endotoxin and organic dust exposures in hanging rooms at two poultry processing plants)

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report July 13, 1990/39(27);460-461,467-469: Epidemiologic Notes and Reports Psittacosis at a Turkey Processing Plant - North Carolina, 1989

In 1989, a physician in North Carolina treated two poultry workers from a turkey processing plant for possible psittacosis. Following notification, the North Carolina Department of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources conducted a telephone survey and identified 32 adults who had been evaluated for febrile respiratory or gastrointestinal illnesses during the time frame. These persons were considered as having suspected psittacosis, and all were employees at the plant. This report describes the investigation of this outbreak of psittacosis, the largest documented in North Carolina since 1956.

Related Published Articles:

Risk Assessment and Management of Chlamydia psittaci in Poultry Processing Plants. Ann Occup Hyg. 2012 Apr;56(3):340-9.

Elevated Risk of Carrying Gentamicin-Resistant Escherichia coli among U.S. Poultry Workers. Environ Health Perspect 2007; 115(12);1738-1742.

An Outbreak of Psittacosis in Minnesota Turkey Industry Workers: Implications for Modes of Transmission and Control. Am J Epidemiol 1989;130:569-77.

Chemical Hazards

NIOSH Publications and Resources:

Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards: Carbon Dioxide

Workplace Safety and Health Topic: Ammonia

Workplace Safety and Health Topic: Chlorine

NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation Report: HETA 2007-0284 and 2007-0317-3155, Evaluation of Eye and Respiratory Symptoms at a Poultry Processing Facility - Oklahoma. (evaluation of eye and respiratory irritation symptoms among production employees and government food inspectors)

NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation Report: HETA-2006-0153-3022, Sara Lee Foods, Storm Lake, Iowa (follow-up evaluation of chloramine exposures during evisceration at a poultry processing plant)

NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation Report: HETA-2004-0337-3051, US Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, Natchitoches, Louisiana (evaluation of chloramine exposures during evisceration at a poultry processing plant)

NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation Report: HETA-2002-0257-2916, Bil-Mar Foods, Storm Lake, Iowa (evaluation of chloramine exposures during evisceration at a poultry processing plant)

NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation Report: HETA-2000-0105-2794, Wampler Foods, Inc., Hinton, Virginia (evaluation of chloramine exposures during evisceration at a turkey processing plant)

NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation Report: HETA-1993-0230-2405, Tyson Foods, Monett, Missouri (evaluation of chloramine exposures during evisceration at a chicken processing plant)

NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation Report: HETA-1987-0110-1943, Columbia Farms Poultry Plant, Columbia, South Carolina (evaluation of chloramine exposures at a chicken processing plant)

Physical Hazards

NIOSH Publications and Resources:

Workplace Safety and Health Topic: Cold Stress

Workplace Safety and Health Topic: Heat Stress

Workplace Safety and Health Topic: Noise

Ergonomic Hazards

NIOSH Publications and Resources:

Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-1989-0307-2009, Perdue Farms, Lewiston and Robersonville, North Carolina (ergonomic evaluation of two poultry processing plants)

Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-1989-0251-1997, Cargill Poultry Division, Buena Vista, Georgia (evaluation of cumulative trauma disorders at a poultry processing plant)

Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-1986-0505-1885, Longmont Turkey Processors, Longmont, Colorado (evaluation of carpal tunnel syndrome and other musculoskeletal injuries at a turkey processing plant)

Traumatic Injury and Safety Hazards

NIOSH Publications and Resources:

FACE In-House Report 1996-02: Sanitation Worker Dies After Being Caught In Chiller At Poultry Processing Plant--South Carolina
This report details the recommendations from an investigation of a 37-year-old male sanitation worker who died as a result of crushing injuries he sustained after being caught in a poultry chiller at a poultry processing plant.


Reported Health Effects

NIOSH Publications and Research:

NIOSH Workplace Safety and Health Topic: Asthma and Allergies

NIOSH Alert: Preventing Asthma in Animal Handlers

DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 97-116

This Alert describes three case reports of animal handling workers affected by exposures to animals. The recommendations presented here can help reduce such exposures and prevent animal-induced asthma and allergies.

Related Published Articles:

Eye and Respiratory Symptoms in Poultry Processing Workers Exposed to Chlorine By-Products. Am J Ind Med 2006; 49(2):119-126.

Case Reports: Epidemic Eye and Upper Respiratory Irritation in Poultry Processing Plants. Appl Occup Env Hyg 1995; 10(1):43-49.

Knuckle Pads in Live-Chicken Hangers. Contact Dermatitis 1987; 17(1):13-16.

Sources of Respiratory Insult in the Poultry Processing Industry. Am J Ind Med 1984; 6(2):89-96.

Other Resources

National Ag Safety Database: Ventilation of Poultry Slaughtering and Processing Plants

OSHA Poultry Processing Safety and Health Topic Page

OSHA Poultry Processing e-Tool

OSHA Guidelines for Poultry Processing: Ergonomics for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service Fact Sheet: Campylobacter

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service Fact Sheet: Escherichia coli O157:H7

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service Fact Sheet: Salmonella

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service Directive 7120.1: Safe and Suitable Ingredients Used in the Production of Meat, Poultry, and Egg Products

 
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  • Page last reviewed: April 8, 2014
  • Page last updated: April 8, 2014
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