For the second time this year, OSHA has put a poultry company on notice for inappropriate medical treatment of injured workers. The agency sent a letter last month to Delaware-based Allen Harim Foods raising concerns about the company's use of emergency medical technicians (EMTs) to treat chronic injuries and practices that contradict the firm's written protocols for treating injured workers.
The agency’s letter is a follow-up to citations issued in June to Allen Harim Foods, a topic I wrote about in “Crippled hands, strained bladders.” OSHA's letter, dated August 7, 2015, contains themes similar to those in a letter the agency sent to Wayne Farms about its questionable practices to address employees with work-related musculoskeletal disorders. These letters make me wonder whether mismanagement of these injuries is the standard of care in the poultry industry.
Here’s some of what OSHA says about Allen Harim Foods’ program:
*The company’s first-aid station is staffed by EMTs who are supervised by a safety officer with no medical training. Under Delaware law, EMTs have to be supervised by a physician. Moreover, “none of the three EMTs…have a Delaware EMT license.”
*“…information from interviews and review of the EMT logs indicates that the first aid station is being used as a vehicle to prevent worker injuries from becoming OSHA recordable or worker compensation cases, particularly in regard to musculoskeletal symptoms and injuries due to ergonomic hazards.”
*"Some workers were seen ten times or more by the EMTs without referral to a physician or other higher level healthcare provider for definitive evaluation and treatment."
*“The EMTs frequently use the term 'alleged' when describing a worker's statement regarding a symptom or injury. This term and EMTs' comments in some of the records suggest a lack of respect or professionalism and a demeanor of skepticism when EMTs are caring for workers."
*“A number of Allen Harim Foods, LLC workers do not speak English but speak other languages, such as Spanish and Creole. The EMTs stated that they do not speak these languages and employ coworkers to translate for them. This practice creates a breach of confidentiality when discussing a worker's personal medical problems. ...Healthcare providers now regularly use confidential translation services to resolve this issue.”
*"A number of workers appeared to have been terminated by Allen Harim within weeks to months after suffering an MSD. In several cases, the workers were terminated within days or the same day of the MSD occurrence. In some of these cases, there is a 'no-rehire' comment in the medical records. Of the seven employees who referred themselves to the doctor, six were terminated and three of the six had 'no-rehire' comments."
*"Despite Allen Harim Foods, LLC's policy to treat each employee with respect, as noted in the Medical Directives, workers are treated with distrust rather than respect. Symptoms are doubted."
Allen Harim Foods says its mission is: "Improving the Quality of Life and Sharing Happiness." It's difficult for me to see how either is achieved by dismissing the symptoms of injured workers or firing them for suffering an injury.