Background: Poultry processing is the largest sector of the meat products industry. Many workers are immigrants; few data exist on their illness and injury rates and the impact of workplace safety environment.
Methods: Survey interviews were conducted with a representative sample of 200 Latino poultry workers employed by three different companies in western North Carolina; topics included symptoms, work-related illnesses and injuries, and plant safety climate.
Results: Most respondents were <35 years of age and had been in the US <10 years. Frequency of self-reported symptoms was high, particularly for musculoskeletal symptoms. Despite symptoms, workers reported not missing work or seeking medical care. Occupational injuries and illnesses and symptoms varied by company. Between-company differences in injury and illness rates were consistent with perceived safety and company provision of personal protective equipment.
Conclusions: Symptoms reported exceeded rates reported by other community, clinical, and occupational samples. Findings suggest policy changes and research are needed to reduce the high rates of occupational illnesses and injuries in this vulnerable population.
Copyright 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.