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Poultry company cited for concealing work-related injuries

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued citations and proposed fines for a chicken processing company that has plants in several locations, including North Carolina. The company, Wayne Farms, has been accused of attempting to discourage employees from seeking medical care for work-related injuries. The federal agency has proposed fines in the amount of $100,000 for the violations.

The company employees were allegedly ordered by plant personnel to seek treatment from a company nurse on multiple occasions before referrals would be granted to seek care from an independent physician. Many of the workers suffered serious physical injuries due to the work conditions to which they were exposed. As a result of the policy of requiring the employees to seek on-site care, the company in turn reported lower incidences of work-related injuries and illnesses.

OSHA has cited one of the company's facilities for 11 violations, nine of which were classified as serious violations. In a move it has not taken in approximately 10 years, the agency issued the citations under the umbrella of the "general duty" clause, meaning it is incumbent upon the employer to ensure the safety of its employees. The hazardous conditions first came to light after several workers sought assistance and then lodged the complaint with the officials.

The company has countered by stating that many of the citations are vague and hard to investigate and are therefore difficult to correct. In addition, it stated that other issues were either already resolved or were not defined violations under any clearly stated regulation. Many see OSHA's decision as a sign that it is willing to take proactive measures to safeguard the health of poultry workers. North Carolina workers who have suffered work-related injuries at one of these facilities -- or anywhere else -- do have the right to seek assistance to file a claim for any benefits to which they are entitled.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Poultry Processor Discouraged Injured Workers From Seeing Doctors, Feds Find", Dave Jamieson, Oct. 29, 2014

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