Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Poultry Workers

When people think of on-the-job injuries, they often think of a single accident or incident, but carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) and other repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) are, in reality, often a work-related condition for which a patient may be able to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Also, when people think of carpal tunnel syndrome, they often associate it with sedentary jobs that involve sitting in front of a computer for hours a day.

But chicken-4-1392637-m.jpgaccording to a recent article from Safety and Health Magazine, poultry workers are at a particularly high risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome while on the job. The article focuses on a recent National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) study, which found more than 50 percent of workers at a poultry plant in Maryland suffered from at least one musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) affecting a hand or wrist. NIOSH performed this study at the request of plant’s employer. One of the main types of musculoskeletal disorder affecting hands and wrists is carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), along with other types of repetitive stress injuries.

As the poultry plant employs people whose job responsibilities vary greatly depending upon position, NIOSH looked at each particular job. The study found nearly 60 percent of positions surveyed required workers to perform more hand repetitions and with greater force than considered safe by NIOSH and OSHA guidelines. This significantly increases the risk a worker will develop a musculoskeletal disorder, including carpal tunnel syndrome.

NIOSH utilized a variety of testing methods when performing the survey, including nerve conduction tests. Employees given nerve conduction tests showed abnormal results in approximately 75 percent of the tests, and approximately 35 percent of employees were found to exhibit signs of carpal tunnel syndrome.

With the vast number of employees working in poultry plants and other agricultural jobs across the Carolinas, our Spartanburg workers’ compensation attorneys urge employers and employees to take all reasonable steps to prevent work-related carpal tunnel syndrome and other musculoskeletal disorders or RSIs.

When working at a job that requires frequent cutting of meat, one of the most important things workers can do is make sure they are using sharp knives. When a knife is dull, it requires more pressure and more sawing action to cut through a piece of meat that it does with a properly sharpened knife. As long as proper safety equipment such as a NIOSH approved cutting glove is used, a sharper knife is much safer than a dull knife. Using less pressure to cut meat also reduces the chance a knife will slip and injure a worker.

Another important safety measure is, when working at an adjustable workstation, make sure the surface is the correct height to prevent unnecessary bending. Being hunched over puts tremendous stress on the human body and, over time, can result in a musculoskeletal disorder.

It should also be noted that if you do experience symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome or any other work-related injury or illness, it is important to report your injury to employer as soon as possible. Do not wait and hope it will get better on its own. Not only is this unlikely to happen, you may also miss your opportunity to file a workers’ compensation claim.

If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.
Additional Resources:
Poultry workers at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome, other MSDs, April 21, 2015, Safety and Health Magazine

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