Ergonomics -- the applied science of equipment and workplace design intended to maximize productivity by reducing operator fatigue and discomfort -- has played a considerable role in the reduction of injury and illness rates. Since the development of Voluntary Ergonomic Guidelines for the Meat Packing Industry in 1990, the meat and poultry industry has seen significant reductions in injury and illness rates.

Essential elements of these guidelines include:

  • An analysis of the workplace,
  • Hazard prevention and control,
  • Medical management; and,
  • Training and education.

The key to these guidelines, which have been called a model to other industries, is the flexibility and specificity to the meat and poultry industry. The goals were designed to improve ergonomics and to prevent the occurrence of Cumulative Trauma Disorders (CTDs) in the work place. CTDs are caused by repetitive motions over a long period, especially when working in awkward positions or exerting a lot of force.

Much of the success of ergonomics can also be attributed to the cooperation among competitors to share information and design techniques in order to improve working conditions since worker safety issues were declared "non-competitive" by the industry.

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