Musculoskeletal symptoms among poultry processing workers and a community comparison group: Black women in low-wage jobs in the rural South.
BACKGROUND: Poultry processing is characterized by rapid line speed and extreme division of labor. Morbidity associated with this work has been reported by scientists, journalists and workers in this fast growing industry. METHODS: Cross-sectional data from baseline measures of a cohort of black women employed in poultry processing (n = 291) and a community comparison group (n = 299) in rural North Carolina were used to evaluate musculoskeletal symptom reports and to explore factors associated with those reports. Recruitment of participants and collection of data were performed by women in the community circumventing the need to involve employers. RESULTS: Significant differences in musculoskeletal symptom prevalence were observed between women employed in poultry processing and those of similar economic status employed elsewhere in the same area of rural northeastern North Carolina. After adjusting for other factors independently associated with symptoms among these women including age, depression, and perceived isometric load at work, the prevalence of upper extremity and neck symptoms was 2.4 (95% CI 1.7, 3.2) times higher among women working in poultry processing. CONCLUSIONS: The findings add to the documentation of occupational health concerns among vulnerable workers employed in poultry processing in our state; in this economically depressed area of rural northeastern North Carolina poultry processing is the largest single employer of women. On a larger scale, the potential magnitude of upper extremity morbidity among women employed in poultry processing should be viewed with the knowledge that poultry processing is a growing industry in the U.S. with work done largely by blacks and immigrants.
Lipscomb, HJ; Epling, CA; Pompeii, LA; Dement, JM
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