WASHINGTON (FNS) -- The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union is criticizing a proposed reform of Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations as jeopardizing worker safety in the meatpacking and food processing industries.
Deborah Berkowitz, director of the Office of Occupational Safety and Health with UFCW, said the bill would make it easier for meatpacking and poultry plants to gain exemptions from OSHA inspections.
Berkowitz told a joint hearing of the Senate Labor and Human Resources and Small Business committees that the bill "completely ignores 20 years of the positive effect of OSHA inspections in high risk industries."
The union representative called meat and poultry plants among the most dangerous and said that OSHA regulations have protected workers there.
"The inspections are not used for safer industries, like supermarkets, but for meatpacking plants and other high risk industries that show up on the top of state charts of work related injuries and illnesses," she said.
Under the reform package, plants with injury rates below the national average for their industry would be exempt from OSHA inspections, which Berkowitz said for meatpacking, means that any plants with injury rates of less than 39% would be exempt.
The measure, sponsored by Senate Labor Committee chair Nancy Kassebaum, R-Kan., would permit OSHA to issue warnings instead of citations, for what are deemed "nonserious" violations.
Kassebaum said it "encourages the agency to focus on the most serious hazards and the most dangerous work sites, instead of red tape and paperwork." Kassebaum plans to try to move the bill through the Senate before retiring at the end of this year.