Report: 27 Workers a Day Suffer Amputation or Hospitalization, According to OSHA Severe Injury Data from 29 States

Washington, D.C.—A new report issued today by the National Employment Law Project, analyzing severe injury data compiled by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) from employers in a little over half the states, finds an average of 27 workers a day suffer work-related amputations or hospitalizations.

Two poultry and meat processing companies, despite their relatively small size, reported among the largest numbers of severe injuries, according to the report, which analyzes the first 21 months of available data on severe injuries (defined as involving amputation, hospitalization, or loss of an eye). OSHA began collecting severe injury reports from employers in January 2015.

“OSHA’s severe injury data shines a light on the severe toll of preventable workplace injuries, especially in the U.S. poultry industry,” said Debbie Berkowitz, senior fellow for worker safety and health with the National Employment Law Project and the report’s lead author. “The workers who put food on our tables should not have to sacrifice their health for a paycheck.”

According to NELP’s report, employers in the 29 states covered by federal OSHA notified the agency of 17,533 incidents of the most severe work-related injuries during the period from January 2015 through September 2016. (The remaining 21 states and Puerto Rico have their own state-plan OSHAs and do not report to federal OSHA.) This amounts to a staggering 27 workers a day in these states suffering amputations or an injury so severe that the worker must be hospitalized for at least one night. NELP’s report ranks the top employers and industries based on the number of severe injuries reported.

A close reading of the data reveals that, as expected, some of the nation’s largest employers have the highest number of reported severe injuries. But of great concern is the fact that much smaller companies also are reporting some of the largest numbers of severe injuries. Two much smaller companies that stand out among the top seven are in the poultry and meat processing industry: Tyson Foods and JBS/ Pilgrim’s Pride. Out of more than 14,000 companies reporting to the government, Tyson Foods ranked fourth, and JBS/Pilgrim’s Pride ranked sixth, in terms of the number of severe injury reports filed.

The NELP report found that another company involved in poultry and meat processing, Cargill, has the 14th highest number of reported severe injuries, as does a sanitation company, Packers Sanitation Services, which provides workers who clean and sanitize the equipment in meat and poultry plants.

Further, the poultry industry as a whole has the 12th highest number of severe injuries of all industries reporting—higher than the saw mill industry, auto, steel, and other high-hazard industries. This is despite the fact that severe injuries can be prevented if these same employers followed basic safety rules set by OSHA over the past 45 years.