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Workplace injuries are par for the course for turkey processors

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and the pressure and demands on workers in turkey processing plants in Oklahoma and other states might ease slightly. However, the worldwide market for these birds is snowballing, and economic researchers estimate global production in 2019 to be about 30 million pounds. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says poultry processing shows a rate of workplace injuries and illnesses that is 60 percent higher than in other industries.

Safety authorities say the pressure placed on workers to speed up processing and increase production while conditions are rough and hazardous give rise to the majority of injuries in turkey processing plants. They say amputations are the most significant risks during manual slaughtering and cutting up of birds that weigh around 16 pounds each in cold and wet environments. If employers fail to provide adequate safety training and workspaces that comply with safety regulations, poultry plant workers will continue to lose limbs in amputation accidents.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's emphasis program in Oklahoma and several other states aims to ensure these plants comply with confined space and lockout/tagout regulations. One tragic example of noncompliance involved a worker whose arm was ripped off while he cleaned a machine that was not locked out. The man worked alone and had to walk to another section of the plant to get to a co-worker.

This man was fortunate because doctors managed to reattach his arm, but medical expenses were likely astronomical -- not to mention lost wages for the time that he was unable to return to work. Turkey plant workers in Oklahoma might find comfort in knowing that the state-regulated workers' compensation program will cover medical expenses resulting from workplace injuries. An experienced workers' compensation attorney can assist with the claims process for benefits that will also include a wage-replacement package.

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