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Health hazard evaluation report: evaluation of musculoskeletal disorders and traumatic injuries among employees at a poultry processing plant.

Musolin K; Ramsey JG; Wassell JT; Hard DL; Mueller C
Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, HETA 2012-0125-3204, 2014 Mar; :1-45
The Health Hazard Evaluation Program received a request from a poultry processing plant in South Carolina. The United States Department of Agriculture/Food Safety and Inspection Service required the plant to request a NIOSH evaluation in order to obtain an evisceration line speed waiver under the Salmonella Initiative Program. The plant asked NIOSH to identify the potential for increase in musculoskeletal and upper extremities trauma due to the planned evisceration line speed increase. In response to this request, NIOSH investigators evaluated ergonomic hazards, nerve damage in employees' hands and wrists (known as carpal tunnel syndrome), and traumatic injuries during three visits. We assessed repetition and force in 67 job tasks, and collected medical and personnel records, and logs of work-related injuries and illnesses to evaluate musculoskeletal disorders and traumatic injuries. In an August 2012 baseline evaluation, we gave a questionnaire and tested nerve function for Fresh Plant production line employees and live hang contractors. After our baseline evaluation, two evisceration lines were combined into one resulting in a similar number of birds processed by most employees daily. In a June 2013 follow-up evaluation, we interviewed Fresh Plant production line employees and live hang contractors who had participated in August 2012. We noted changes the plant had made after increasing the evisceration line speed and assessed the effect of these plant changes on musculoskeletal disorders and traumatic injuries among employees. The results of our baseline evaluation indicated that 41% of participants were performing jobs above the ACGIH TLV for hand activity and force and 42% had evidence of carpal tunnel syndrome. The prevalence of hand or wrist symptoms (pain, burning, numbness, or tingling) was similar at baseline and follow-up. Fifty-seven percent of participants reported at least one musculoskeletal symptom (not including hand or wrist symptoms) at both baseline and follow-up evaluations. The Fresh Plant's rate of OSHA recordable injuries and illnesses was higher than the poultry processing industry average for 2009-2012. The most common work-related injuries by cause, for all years, were "cut/puncture/scrape," "repetitive motion," "fall/slip/trip," "cumulative," and "caught in/under/between." To address the potential for musculoskeletal disorders and traumatic injuries among employees, NIOSH investigators recommended the employer (1) implement the 2013 OSHA Guidelines for Poultry Processing and recommendations from poultry industry groups, (2) redesign job tasks so that levels of hand activity and force are below the ACGIH TLV, (3) use a job rotation schedule until the redesign is completed, (4) ensure that the knife change out schedule is strictly followed, (5) provide more than one break during the work shift, and (6) enhance reporting, screening, and medical assessment onsite to improve early intervention of musculoskeletal disorders and traumatic injuries. We recommended the employees (1) report symptoms and injuries as soon as they occur to supervisors and onsite medical staff, (2) use only sharp knives and change knives on a regular basis, (3) make sure the standing platforms are adjusted to the correct height, (4) report potential fall/slip/trip hazards to supervisors so they can be quickly addressed, and (5) follow up with onsite medical staff and your personal doctor if you were found to have an abnormal nerve conduction test result.
Region-4; Health-hazards; Poultry-industry; Poultry; Poultry-workers; Food-processing-workers; Food-processing-industry; Musculoskeletal-system-disorders; Slaughterhouses; Surveillance; Carpal-tunnel-syndrome; Repetitive-work; Injuries; Agriculture; Work-capacity; Work-intervals; Work-operations; Work-practices; Extremities; Cumulative-trauma; Ergonomics; Nerve-function; Nerve-damage; Force; Hand-injuries; Employee-exposure; Exposure-assessment; Exposure-levels; Exposure-limits; Job-rotation; Task-performance; Medical-monitoring; Author Keywords: Poultry Processing; poultry; line speed; evisceration; musculoskeletal disorders; carpal tunnel syndrome; traumatic injuries; slaughter; prevalence; occupation
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Hazard Evaluation and Technical Assistance
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
HETA-2012-0125-3204; M032014
NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Services; Transportation, Warehousing and Utilities
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division