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OSHA Regional Emphasis Program for Poultry Processing Facilities

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On December 3, 2015, representatives from OSHA Region 4 (Atlanta) and Region 6 (Dallas) and representatives of the poultry industry meet at Georgia Tech to discuss the Regional Emphasis Program (REP) for Poultry Processing.  Presenters included Kurt Petermeyer, the Regional Administrator for Region 4, several Deputy Regional Administrators from Regions 4 and 6, Area Directors from Atlanta, Georgia and Nashville, Tennessee; an ergonomist, and an occupational physician.  The purpose of the meeting was to present the REP and take questions from industry and other stakeholders.

OSHA discussed the elements of the program, focusing on scheduling and inspection procedures. The occupational physician gave a presentation related to medical management of musculoskeletal disorders and biological hazards such as campylobacteriosis and histoplasmosis.  She also emphasized the role of the physician in the first-aid stations and clinics.  Paul Pressley, of the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association, made an excellent presentation on behalf of the industry. 

Here are the highlights:

1.         OSHA plans to expand unprogrammed inspections to “wall-to-walls” in a manner that courts have ruled is unconstitutional.  This is significant because OSHA currently shows plans for 56 unprogrammed and17 programmed inspections in poultry processing plants in Regions 4 and 6.

2.         OSHA is developing the programmed inspection list.  OSHA can constitutionally perform “wall-to-wall” inspections of poultry plants that are included on the list, and can use unprogrammed inspections to accelerate the inspections for plants on the current cycle.

3.         The inspections will be for all facilities in NAICS 311615 (Poultry Processing).

4.         The inspections will be comprehensive safety and health inspections, and will include sanitation activities.  The topics covered will be:          


                        a.         OSHA Recordkeeping

                        b.         Medical Records (expect a Medical Access Order)

                        c.         Ergonomics

                        d.         Process Safety Management

                        e.         Confined Spaces

                        f.          Electrical

                        g.         Hazard Communication (Remember new rules take effect June 2016)

h.         Hexavalent Chromium (be sure to have data showing concentrations below the action level)

                        i.          Lockout-tagout (both maintenance and sanitation)

                        j.          Machine guarding

                        k.         Biological hazards, and                        

                        l.          Other hazards (including access to restroom facilities).

            OSHA”s occupational physician presented a chart that showed the poultry industry incident rate for musculosketal disorders as lower than private industry, but much higher for repetitive motion disorders.  She also discussed campylobacter, primarily in live hang, and recommended improved ventilation, hands-free soap dispenser and waste receptacles, goggles, face shields and training.

            On-site clinics received special attention.  In-plant medical units should include programs developed by an occupational medicine or emergency medicine physician, up-to-date medical directives, and appropriately trained staff.

Brace yourselves!  The few unlucky poultry processing plants that bear the full brunt of the comprehensive “wall-to-wall” inspection can anticipate that OSHA will be in and out of the plant for months, with multiple teams.  The burden on the employer in terms of staff time and lost productivity will be considerable, even if no citations result – which is unlikely given the degree of scrutiny OSHA seems determined to apply.  OSHA continues to use selection criteria of dubious constitutionality.  If OSHA tries to expand the scope of an unprogrammed inspection, the plant would be wise to refuse to allow the inspection and challenge the selection criteria in court.

Remember, too, that the best defense is a good offense.  Wimberly & Lawson can conduct a confidential OSHA audit, at your convenience, to identify potential violations so you can correct them before the inspectors arrive.  Senior Principal Larry Stine has over 30 years’ experience with OSHA litigation, and counsel Mark Waschak was a compliance officer before he became a lawyer.  An audit can save an employer tens of thousands of dollars in fines and penalties, not to mention time and negative exposure.  And, unlike safety consultants whose reports may be subject to discovery, an audit conducted by our firm is protected by the attorney-client privilege.  Be pro-active, and schedule your own audit . . . before OSHA schedules one for you.

Questions?  Need more information?  Contact Larry Stine at (404) 365-0900 or at jls@wimlaw.com.

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