A report released last week by the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that slaughterhouse and meat-processing workers faced a number of work hazards, including routine denial of bathroom breaks. GAO, an agency that reports pertinent information to Congress, compiled information from workers and officials in factory farms GAO five meat-producing states: Arkansas, Delaware, Nebraska, North Carolina, and Virginia. Additionally, GAO interviewed inspectors from two agencies responsible for the oversight factory farm practices, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), in its effort to gather a comprehensive perspective on the state of worker conditions within animal agriculture. “Meat and poultry workers may be denied timely bathroom breaks because they work in an assembly line environment,” the GAO report stated, “which generally requires workers to be replaced if they leave their station. Workers we interviewed in all five states said their requests to use the bathroom are often delayed or denied, and workers in two states said they fear punishment if they ask to use the bathroom too frequently or complain about lack of bathroom access to their supervisors or to OSHA.” Currently, production-line speeds in poultry slaughterhouses (or how quickly birds move through the conveyor) are capped at 140 birds per minute, which results in a single worker processing up GAO 14,000 birds per day (or one every two seconds) with no ability to disrupt the line to address basic human functions. The GAO report confirms previous findings revealed by Oxfam America in its 2016 report entitled “No Relief” wherein the organization uncovered that workers at poultry farms wore adult diapers to relieve themselves during their day-long shifts.
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