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New Solut. 2007;17(1-2):17-40.

Are we failing vulnerable workers? The case of black women in poultry processing in rural North Carolina.

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Division of Occupational & Environmental Medicine Department of Community & Family Medicine Box 3834, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA.


In 1989, North Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspectors cited two poultry processing plants in northeastern North Carolina for serious repetitive motion problems. In 1990, investigators from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health confirmed significant upper extremity musculoskeletal symptoms and disorders among workers. We now report on analyses of baseline data collected from a cohort of women employed in one of these plants. The plant, which is the largest employer of women in the area, is located in a sparsely populated area with a black majority where nearly one-third of the population lives below the poverty level. Conditions we report suggest failure of existing health and safety systems, both regulatory and consultative, to prevent morbidity among vulnerable women in this industry, as well as social and economic conditions that influence availability of work and use of benefits to which they are entitled.

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