CHICAGO ‒ The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration established a Local Emphasis Program to reduce workplace dangers and better protect workers from machine and amputation hazards in Wisconsin food manufacturing facilities.

Food production workers in Wisconsin experience a nearly 24 percent higher injury rate than workers in other production facilities in the state. From 2014-2020, OSHA investigated multiple fatalities, dozens of amputations, fractures, and workers with crushed hands or fingers. Investigators determined that the employers failed to control hazardous energy or allowed workers to operate machines without adequate guarding.

The emphasis program seeks to improve compliance with required safety procedures among Wisconsin’s 900 food manufacturers who employ 19,000 workers that preserve and process animal products, fruits and vegetables on a seasonal and year-round basis. The program will focus on making sure employers are taking necessary steps to identify, reduce and eliminate exposure to machine hazards during production activities, and off-shift sanitation, service and maintenance tasks.

“The food production industry continues to be staffed in part by seasonal and temporary laborers who may not be fully aware of their rights or they may be afraid to communicate safety concerns,” said OSHA Regional Administrator William Donovan in Chicago. “Employers must protect their workers whether they are employed for a day, a season or year-round. They can do so by planning their training and orientation programs to emphasize proper safety precautions and ensure the procedures are explained in a language workers can understand.”

In the LEP’s initial phase, OSHA will conduct outreach with employers, professional associations, local safety councils, apprenticeship programs, local hospitals and occupational health clinics. Agency representatives will also make presentations to industry organizations and stakeholders. Employers will be encouraged to use OSHA’s free consultation services to help them implement machine safety strategies and ensure compliance with OSHA standards.

Following OSHA’s three-month outreach that began April 19, the LEP empowers OSHA to schedule and inspect select food industry employers in Wisconsin with injury rates higher than the national average.

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