Washington – The Food Safety Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture, in conjunction with OSHA, will allow some pork processing facilities – on a trial basis – to operate at speeds of chain increased for up to a year while collecting data that “measures the impact of line speed on workers.”
The USDA previously said it accepted a March ruling from the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota that bans the removal of maximum line speeds at pork processing plants. Optional USDA Participating Facilities New pig slaughter inspection system may apply to participate in the “time-limited” test, where establishments will be allowed to operate faster than the current maximum line speed of 1,106 pigs per hour. Facilities, however, must adopt worker safety measures included in an agreement with the workers’ union or a worker safety committee representing employees, according to the USDA.
“The trial will make it easier to experiment with different ergonomics, automation and crew to design custom work environments that increase productivity and protect food safety while decreasing the likelihood of worker injuries,” said a spokesperson for the ‘USDA. Safety + Health. “During the trial, participating establishments will collect data that measures the impact of line speed on workers, which will be shared with OSHA and may inform the development of future rules in this area. “
Under a final rule published in October 1, 2019, Federal Register and effective December 2, 2019, FSIS established NSIS, which revoked the current maximum line speed at participating processing plants.
Shortly after the publication of the controversial final rule, a coalition made up of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, three local affiliated unions and the watchdog group Public Citizen filed a lawsuit against the USDA to challenge the rule. The Minnesota court later ruled that FSIS failed to consider worker safety during the rulemaking process, violating the Administrative Procedure Act of 1946.
In a statement, Zach Corrigan, senior attorney for the environmental group Food & Water Watch, criticized the Biden administration for “turning the tide” by accepting the court ruling “with a pilot program that continues to push profits from the industry at the expense of the safety of our food.
National Pork Producers Council President Jen Sorenson said in a statement that the organization was “very satisfied” with the terms of the trial.
NPPC cites the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point Inspection Models Project https://www.fsis.usda.gov/inspection/compliance-guidance/haacp/haccp-based-inspection-models-project – a pilot program from the 1990s that has allowed lines to run faster than the current limit – as a proven forerunner of NSIS which has proven that “increasing line speeds and protecting worker safety” are not mutually exclusive.
“We are optimistic that this new program, with the participation of OSHA, will result in more pork for consumers without sacrificing worker safety,” Sorenson said.
At the time of going to press, the USDA spokesperson said that four NSIS facilities had submitted information to participate in the lawsuit. The agency intends to display the names of approved establishments.