Around the same time this month that an Austin meatpacking plant was denying workers compensation claims to more than a dozen workers who got sick, it was picking up an award from an industry group for its health and safety program.
It’s the same plant being sued by a worker because of a mysterious neurological illness that she and 12 co-workers developed, and the company has refused their claim for workers compensation.
Health investigators, MPR’s Sea Stachura reported earlier this month, have been trying to determine whether the brain tissue, sprayed into the air as droplets, made the workers sick.
Coincidentally, the award was announced on the day the lawsuit was made public.
So, what do you have to do to win the award? Let’s go to the guidelines:
The primary program goals are to motivate participants to improve their safety performance through the establishment of sound safety and health programs at the plant level and to recognize those plants that have achieved a high level of safety performance as part of the continuing effort to reduce occupational injury and illness.
The program can boost employee morale, reduce expenses associated with injuries and illness in the workplace and enhance the meat and poultry industry’s overall image regarding employee safety and health.
“Explain this to me,” I asked David Ray, the vice president for public affairs for the American Meat Institute.
“Well, the award is not a measurement of the response to a single situation, rather it’s the measurement of the total health and safety program of the plant,” he said.
“But if it has a good health and safety program of the plant, would 13 people have gotten sick because of what they do for a living and then be denied workers compensation?” I asked.
That’s when I find out that the person I needed to talk to is on a plane this afternoon.
I wonder how things are at the plants that didn’t win the award.
Update 5:06 p.m. – Even more workers have gotten sick.