Amputations abound at Tyson Foods, OSHA records shed more light on industrial food production

Whole digits, tips of fingers, and parts of a thumb. These are body parts of Tyson Foods’ employees which were severed last year in 10 of the company’s plants. The details are made possible by a new OSHA regulation that took effect on January 1, 2015. The regulation requires employers to report within 24 hours any work-related incident that results in an amputation or hospitalization.

After nearly a year on the books, I was curious to find out what just a single large employer had reported to federal OSHA. I picked Tyson Foods. It has more than more than 400 facilities in 30 US states and it processes 35 million chickens, 400,000 hog, and 128,000 cattle per week. I sent a FOIA request to federal OSHA in October asking for data on injury reports submitted by Tyson Foods. I wasn’t sure what to expect. How many incidents did Tyson report? For what kind of amputations and hospitalizations?

Two weeks ago, I received OSHA’s response to my FOIA request. It does not include information from the states the run their own OSHA program, 10 of which have Tyson operations. Here’s what I learned for the period January 1, 2015 through September 30, 2015:

  • Tyson made 34 reports to OSHA of amputations or hospitalizations. The hospitalizations included a worker at the company’s facility in Rogers, AR who fell 32 feet off of a roof, and a worker in Holcomb, KS who broke his leg while learning to operate a forklift.
  • Seventeen of the 34 incidents were amputations—an average of more than 1 per month. I’ve summarized them in this table:
Tyson amputations

Reports to OSHA of amputations at Tyson Foods’ plants (Jan 1, 2015-Sept 30, 2015)

  • Seven of the 17 incidents occurred at beef-processing plants and another seven at poultry-processing plants.
  • An incident in February 2015 at Tyson’s St. Joseph’s, MO plant resulted in a sanitation worker losing both hands.
  • Two plants—one in Amarillo, TX the other in Lexington, NE—had two amputations each.

Some of the injury reports are more descriptive than others. The reports of two amputations in August that occurred at Tyson’s Amarillo, TX plant simply say this:

“Employees are exposed to ‘caught between’ hazards when operating fork lifts due to lack of training.”

While the incident in April at the Emporia, KS beef-processing plant is described this way:

“Employee was working on the flat steak line running meats over the skinner when his left thumb was cut on the blade (skinner is like a planner that removes the outer layer of the meat) amputating the outside edge and end of the right thumb.”

Skinners. Band saws. Wing saws. Hide grippers. The names of these tools tell just part of the story of why these amputations occurred. Their names, however, provide more than an inkling about the physical demands of these jobs.

This 9-month snapshot of data on amputations at Tyson Foods’ facilities provide just a glimpse. What have other large food production companies reported to OSHA?

Time for me to write some more FOIA requests.

 

Comments

  1. […] Source: Amputations abound at Tyson Foods, OSHA records shed more light on industrial food production […]

  2. #2 JustaTech
    January 28, 2016

    BOTH hands?! Both hands? How does a person get over something like that? How much does rehab and PT and OT and prosthetics cost? Who will pay for it? Will anyone pay for it, or is that poor worker now destined to a life with no hands?!

    That is horrifying and horrible. I’m pretty sure I don’t buy any Tyson’s products, but if I did I would be inclined to stop.

  3. #3 Amy Liebmam
    Salisbury Md
    January 29, 2016

    Very sad, but informative blog. Thank you. Why do you have to do FOIA requests? I thought this information was publically accessible?

  4. #4 Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH
    January 29, 2016

    Amy,
    OSHA doesn’t have the information posted on its website. My experience with OSHA is if you want specific records, they insist you file a FOIA request.

  5. […] Sadly, this increased inspection effort may have been inspired by some injury incidents recently written about by in an article from the ScienceBlogs website “The Pump Handle: A Water Cooler for the Public Health Crowd” titled “Amputations about at Tyson Foods, OSHA records shed more light on industrial food production.… […]

  6. […] The names of these tools tell just part of the story of why these amputations occurred,” wrote Celeste Monforton, a professor of occupational health at George Washington […]

  7. […] The names of these tools tell just part of the story of why these amputations occurred,” wrote Celeste Monforton, a professor of occupational health at George Washington […]

  8. […] The names of these tools tell just part of the story of why these amputations occurred,” wrote Celeste Monforton, a professor of occupational health at George Washington […]

  9. […] The names of these tools tell just part of the story of why these amputations occurred,” wrote Celeste Monforton, a professor of occupational health at George Washington […]

  10. […] The names of these tools tell just part of the story of why these amputations occurred,” wrote Celeste Monforton, a professor of occupational health at George Washington […]

  11. […] The names of these tools tell just part of the story of why these amputations occurred,” wrote Celeste Monforton, a professor of occupational health at George Washington […]

  12. […] The names of these tools tell just part of the story of why these amputations occurred,” wrote Celeste Monforton, a professor at George Washington University, who obtained these numbers from the U.S. Occupational […]

  13. […] The names of these tools tell just part of the story of why these amputations occurred,” wrote Celeste Monforton, a professor of occupational health at George Washington […]

  14. […] writes on her blog that she sought the data because of a new regulation that requires companies to report injuries to […]

  15. […] 2015, BuzzFeed reports. What she found is the stuff of nightmares. According to Monforton’s blog, 17 amputations were reported at 10 Tyson meat processing plants during those months. One Arkansas […]

  16. […] Following this report, last week Buzzfeed reported on data compiled by Celeste Monforton, a professorial lecturer at George Washington University School of Public Health, which revealed that Tyson Foods averaged one amputation a month in the first nine months of 2015. You can also read more about Dr. Monforton’s findings at her blog The Pump Handle. […]

  17. […] to OSHA data acquired by Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH of Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University, there were […]

  18. […] The names of these tools tell just part of the story of why these amputations occurred,” wrote Celeste Monforton, a professor of occupational health at George Washington […]

  19. […] The names of these tools tell just part of the story of why these amputations occurred,” wrote Celeste Monforton, a professor of occupational health at George Washington […]

  20. […] Sadly, this increased inspection effort may have been inspired by some injury incidents recently written about by in an article from the ScienceBlogs website “The Pump Handle: A Water Cooler for the Public Health Crowd” titled “Amputations about at Tyson Foods, OSHA records shed more light on industrial food production.… […]

  21. […] instance, after a new regulation increased the level of reporting required by companies, a look at Tyson Foods (TSN), the nation’s biggest poultry processor, found it had reported 34 […]

  22. […] instance, after a brand-new regulation increased the degree of reporting called for by companies, a look at Tyson Meals (TSN), the nation’s biggest poultry processor, found it had reported 34 […]

  23. […] instance, after a new regulation increased the level of reporting required by companies, a look at Tyson Foods (TSN), the nation's biggest poultry processor, found it had reported 34 instances of […]