The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) date released this week show that the incidence rate for non-fatal occupational injuries and illnesses in the meat and poultry packing and processing industry reached an all-time industry low.

In 2017, there were 4.8 cases of occupational injuries and illnesses per 100 full-time workers in the meat and poultry sector. This figure represents an improvement from the previous industry low of 5.3 cases of occupational injuries and illnesses per 100 workers recorded in 2016. Feedstuffs, a news source for animal agriculture, points out that according to BLS data, the number of non-fatal occupational injuries and illnesses has been cut in half during the past 12 years.

The most serious injuries, those included in the “days away, restricted or job transfer" (DART) rate, totaled 3.6 cases per 100 workers and matched the lowest rate ever recorded for the meat and poultry industry, according to the BLS data. In 2016, the DART incidence rate was 4.4 cases per 100 full-time workers.

“Worker safety progress is one of our industry’s greatest success stories, as evidenced by the more than 80% decline in injury and illness rates in the past 20 years,” North American Meat Institute (NAMI) president and chief executive officer Julie Anna Potts said.

There are approximately 500,000 employees in the nation’s meat industry.

In the early 1990s, NAMI declared worker safety a non-competitive issue, which encouraged member companies to collaborate to find solutions that prioritized and enhanced worker safety. The meat industry, together with OSHA and the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) union, also developed "Voluntary Ergonomic Guidelines for the Meat Packing Industry" — guidelines that OSHA called a “model” for other industries.

NAMI convenes an annual conference on worker safety and presents awards to meat and poultry plants that have achieved high levels of workplace safety performance. The 2019 Worker Safety Conference for the meat and poultry industry will take place Feb. 11-12, 2019, in conjunction with the International Production & Processing Expo in Atlanta, Ga.