Tyson Foods will aim to reduce injuries and illness 15 percent annually, company officials announced April 26.
The company, which employs 114,000 workers with about 83 percent at food production facilities, is promising to share the findings of annual outside safety and health compliance audits and increase poultry plant training staff. Tyson will also expand a safety communications program to all of its poultry plants.
Poultry processors have been frequently criticized by worker advocates, often for problems related to maintaining high production rates leading to hand, wrist and arm injuries from repetitive motions.
Among those praising Tyson’s effort is one of the company’s primary critics, the worker support group OxFam America, which pressured Tysons and other poultry processors to improve working conditions.
“Tyson’s commitment to accountability and transparency will be key to significantly improving conditions for poultry workers,” OxFam’s director of domestic programs, Minor Sinclair, said in an April 26 statement.
Sinclair called for other processors—Pilgrim’s Pride, Perdue Farms and Sanderson Farms—to make similar improvements.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), which represents about 24,000 Tyson employees, will work with the company to expand the injury and illness prevention program.
“Through our ongoing partnership with Tyson Foods, we have already made valuable progress,” UFCW President Marc Perone said in an April 26 statement.
Noel White, Tyson’s chief operating officer, said the safety and health effort is part of larger “sustainability” drive the company is pursuing to create a “better workplace.”
Among the other sustainability goals is to improve retention, with a goal of an annual 10 percent improvement, White said.
Efforts to keep more workers include instituting a pilot compensation program increasing base wages from $14 to $15 an hour and reducing the time it takes for new workers to move to higher wage rates.
As one of the nation’s largest food processors, Tyson has been a frequent target of safety inspections.
In the past year, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and its state partners inspected Tyson facilities 36 times, OSHA records show. In two of the cases, OSHA proposed fines of just over $100,000. Tyson is contesting the violations.
In 2013, OSHA designated Tyson a “severe violator” after investigating why a worker’s hand was amputated while cleaning a conveyor system. The severe violator designation was dropped following a formal settlement in which two willful violations, each with a $70,000 proposed fine for violating lockout/tagout rules, were reduced to a pair of serious violations carrying $7,000 fines.
To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Rolfsen in Washington at BRolfsen@bna.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Connolly at PConnolly@bna.com
A summary of the Tyson program is available at http://src.bna.com/ofk.
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