By Marianne Curtis
On October 28, UFCW Local 832 members working at Granny’s Poultry in Blumenort were informed that an Improvement Order has been issued against Granny’s by the Workplace Safety and Health Division. The department of Safety and Health has subsequently issued a “Stop work warning” and given Granny’s a number of matters to deal with immediately or the stop work warning will become a stop work order.
UFCW Local 832 represents over 500 members working at Granny’s Poultry. UFCW Local 832 President, Jeff Traeger is pleased to have won this battle for the many employees at Granny’s.
“The health and safety committee at Granny’s Poultry along with our union representatives worked tirelessly on this complaint to make sure the company protected our members,” stated Traeger. “For too long the company ignored the health concerns and by this improvement order, will now be forced to ensure the safety of its workers.”
For years, workers have been complaining of respiratory issues and poor air quality at the poultry plant in the Turkey Evisceration Area. The health and safety committee regularly tried to investigate the problem, but management refused to cooperate. After the company continually denied the complaints, the union hired an Occupational Hygienist to investigate the issues and, along with reports of studies of poultry plants in the United States on similar issues, a complaint was made to the Provincial Health and Safety Division.
An inspection was conducted on September 26 by Workplace Health Safety. During the inspection it was found that workers were suffering symptoms including coughing, sneezing, runny nose, sore and burning eyes and seeing circles of light in front of their eyes. These symptoms would go away over the course of the weekend, only to resurface during the work week.
One Granny’s employee describes what he went through while working in the evisceration department.
“I started wearing the paper mask and then had to go to a respirator because it was so hard on my lungs,” he stated. “The levels of the toxins are so bad that people are taking time off work to let their bodies heal – the company is worried about their bonuses and don’t seem to care about the safety of their employees.”
The order dated October 19, gives Granny’s until November 18 to improve the ventilation systems because workers are experiencing symptoms indicative of chloramines exposure.
“The ventilation system in the Turkey evisceration area must be evaluate and improved by a professional mechanical engineer to ensure sufficient fresh air and air circulation and to assist in diluting airborne contaminants in this area,” stated the order. “The water from the chlorine bathes is mixing with the turkey’s themselves to produce chloramines – this mixing must be reduced as much as possible to reduce airborne chloramines exposure.”
Chloramine is a combination of chlorine and ammonia (from the turkeys) and used to disinfect water supplies. Chloramine fumes can cause an individual to become congested and cause
sneezing, sinus congestion, coughing, choking, wheezing, shortness of breath, and
asthma. The likelihood of becoming sick from a chemical increases with exposure time
and concentration. Prolonged exposure also causes skin problems, gastric and digestive issues and kidney and blood problems.
The Department of Health and Safety has ordered Granny’s Poultry in Blumenort to address a number of concerns by November 18 or they will be issued a stop work order.