Study: 42 percent of poultry workers show signs of carpal tunnel

Disabilities affect Minnesotans in a variety of ways. Some people are born with disabilities due to medical conditions or medical errors. Others may become disabled after suffering a severe brain or spinal cord injury in an accident. An illness, such as cancer, may force workers to leave their jobs so they can focus on getting the medical treatment they need to fight their illness. And some medical conditions, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, may worsen over time and gradually make it more difficult for Minnesotans to function normally at work.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is often associated with folks who primarily work at a computer. However, machine operators and those who work on assembly lines may also be vulnerable to developing carpal tunnel syndrome.

According to a recent survey conducted by the government, those who work at poultry plants may be especially vulnerable to developing carpal tunnel due to the nature of their work. And with the possibility of these workers' workloads increasing due to a new proposal that would change poultry plant inspection processes, public health and labor advocates are worried that even more poultry workers will suffer from carpal tunnel or become disabled if they already suffer from the condition.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed to change the poultry inspection process by having government inspectors focus more of their efforts inspecting poultry for bacteria. This would mean that fewer inspectors would be present at slaughtering lines. This potential shift has some concerned that workers would be subjected to having to process more poultry than what they already do process during their work shifts. This may certainly be good for businesses, but it may not be great for workers' health.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recently conducted a study regarding poultry workers and their risk of developing carpal tunnel. The study revealed that 42 percent of workers showed signs of carpal tunnel, which include pain, numbness and a burning feeling in one's hands or wrists.

Carpal tunnel syndrome may affect workers differently. Those who have carpal tunnel may be able to continue doing their jobs with minimal discomfort, but others may experience severe pain that may make it nearly impossible to perform certain tasks with their hands. If you can no longer work because of your carpal tunnel symptoms, you may be eligible to receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. To learn more about how to file a successful claim for benefits, you may want to consider consulting an attorney in your area.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Poultry worker study finds alarming rate of carpal tunnel as USDA considers line speedup," Dave Jamieson, June 5, 2013

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