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Government calls for improved meat and poultry safety standards

A recent report from the Government Accountability Office in Washington D.C. is calling for improved collaboration among federal agencies that regulate the meat and poultry processing business in Pennsylvania and other states. The report, which was released in November of 2017, calls on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service to share more information and reach out across organizational lines in order to improve worker safety.

The GAO came up with its conclusions in a report to congress by examining years of OSHA inspection data as well as interviews with agency staff, worker safety advocates, industry representatives and officials from other federal agencies. The GAO found that OSHA's data collection efforts faced significant challenges due to workers fearing retaliation from their employers when they report violations. They also found that FSIS agents avoided filing reports with OSHA due to fear of being inspected themselves.

In order to improve the situation, the GAO recommends that workers be interviewed offsite when filing reports, that agents ask workers more questions and that the agency update its guidance for employers regarding their own health units. They also recommend that OSHA and FSIS set stricter time frames for evaluations and that FSIS should share new safety information with agents, OSHA, NIOSH and plant management.

Workers in the meat and poultry business who have suffered from a workplace illness or an on-the-job accident may be able to benefit from workers' comp protections. These workers may have a right to compensation for lost wages, medical expenses and rehabilitation costs. An attorney who practices workers' compensation law may be able to help workers get the money they deserve.

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