House committee OKs Haddock bill to protect food processing workers

HARRISBURG, April 30 – The PA House Labor and Industry Committee today approved a bill authored by state Rep. Jim Haddock that would help to protect workers at meat packing and food processing facilities.

“My proposal would help strengthen protections at the federal level by ensuring workers at meat packing and food processing facilities in Pennsylvania are receiving proper training in the language they speak, have a reporting mechanism for dangerous workplace conditions and give them an active role in safety on the job,” said Haddock, D-Luzerne/Lackawanna.

“This commonsense approach to workplace safety would ensure that not only is the food we put on our tables safe, but the workers are as well. These workers are the definition of essential workers. Without them, our grocery store shelves would sit empty, and Pennsylvania’s economy would suffer. They deserve protections to keep them safe at work.”

Pennsylvania has over 2,300 food processing facilities and ranks among the top in the nation for food processing exports. Food produced and manufactured by the industry is strictly regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the federal Food and Drug Administration, and various state-level regulations.

However, Haddock said there is not a single law that specifically protects workers in this dangerous industry.

House Bill 2235, which would apply to employers with 100 full-time workers, would:

  • create training requirements for employees of the meat packing and food processing industries. The training would have to be provided in languages that at least 5% of their employees speak.
  • require unpaid sick leave to be provided to employees.
  • establish facility health and safety committees, including employee and employer representatives.
  • create requirements for infectious disease exposure and prevention plans at each facility.
  • allow the state Department of Labor and Industry to impose penalties of between $500 and $100,000 for violations.

Recent data compiled by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration explained that in the 29 states covered under federal OSHA, 27 workers a day suffered amputation or other hospitalization between 2015 and 2023 in meat packing alone.

Some of the most frequently reported injuries are repetitive strain injuries, chemical burns, exposure to hazardous chemicals, caught-between falls, lacerations and cuts, amputations, and more. Many of the injuries are associated with improper training and communication, crowding on lines, exhaustion, unsafe working conditions, absence of protective equipment, and underlying injury.

The bill moves to the full state House of Representatives for consideration.