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Survey of poultry workers shows high rate of injuries

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. A survey of poultry workers in western North Carolina reveals high rates of injuries, as well as significant differences among poultry companies in numbers of injuries and how workers view company emphasis on safety.

The survey was conducted by researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in collaboration with Centro Latino of Caldwell County, Inc.

"We found high rates of musculoskeletal injuries," said Sara A. Quandt, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology at the School of Medicine, which is part of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. "Almost half of workers reported pain in their hands or arms during the previous month and one in five of those workers was unable to work for at least a day in the previous year because of the pain."

The survey was based on a representative sample of Latino workers in six counties in western North Carolina: Alexander, Burke, Caldwell, Surry, Wilkes and Yadkin. The results, not yet published in a peer-reviewed journal, were distributed to community groups in a working paper.

Poultry processing is the largest and fastest growing sector of the meat products industry, according to the authors. In 2002, North Carolina and four other states accounted for 70 percent of all broiler production in the United States. Many of the workers are immigrants from Mexico and Guatemala, according to the authors.

Face-to-face interviews with 200 poultry workers found that 119 workers (60 percent) reported having one or more of these occupational injuries or illnesses in the past month: respiratory, skin, leg/foot, neck/back or arm/hand. Musculoskeletal problems were the most commonly reported work-related injuries. Thirty-six percent of workers surveyed had neck or back pain, and one in three of those workers missed work in the past 12 months because of the pain.

The injuries and illnesses varied by company, but on average exceeded rates that plants reported to the Occupational Safety
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Contact: Robert Conn
rconn@wfubmc.edu
336-716-4587
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
28-Sep-2005


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