GAO Report Highlights Workplace Safety Issues with Meat and Poultry Plants

According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), meat and poultry slaughter and processing is one of the most hazardous industries in the United States. In 1994, USDA’s FSIS and OSHA agreed to a memorandum to improve workplace safety and allow workers to report dangerous conditions. In a recent Government Accountability Office report entitled “Workplace Safety and Health: Better Outreach, Collaboration, and Information Needed to Protect Workers at Meat and Poultry Plants,” the GAO has brought the memorandum back to the forefront, stating that much unaccomplished work remains and most employees still feel they’ll lose their jobs if they complain about any unsafe conditions to OSHA. The report urges federal agencies, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), to do more to protect workers in meat and poultry plants.

GAO made the following recommendations:

• OSHA should interview workers away from their workplaces to encourage them to speak up about restroom access. By asking workers specifically about this issue, OSHA will be able to better understand the scope of the problem.
• OSHA should update its 1999 guidance on plant health unit management to make sure workers receive timely, quality care.
• OSHA and FSIS should work together to review and update their 1994 Memorandum of Understanding to maximize collaborative opportunities to protect workers.
• FSIS should develop a process to share chemical safety review information with OSHA, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), FSIS inspectors, and plant management.
• NIOSH should conduct a study of the interaction between peracetic acid and other chemicals used in poultry and meat processing plants to determine the combined effects on workers who come into contact with them daily.

To read GAO’s entire report, visit