U.S – U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA’s FSIS) has commissioned a 90-day independent study to determine the impact of increased line speeds on worker safety in New Swine Slaughter Inspection System (NSIS)  establishments.

Following a court order issued in March 2021 by the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) New Swine Slaughter Inspection System (NSIS) faced a significant shift.

The court vacated the component that eliminated line speed limits for participating establishments, necessitating a return to capped line speeds.

In November 2021, the USDA’s FSIS, in collaboration with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), introduced a time-limited trial (TLT).

During this trial, NSIS establishments were allowed to operate at increased line speeds while collecting data to evaluate the impact on workers.

The establishments experimented with ergonomics, automation, and crewing to design unique work environments that will safeguard the safety of both workers and food while preserving productivity.

However, a subsequent assessment by a third-party team of worker safety experts deemed the submitted data insufficient for a comprehensive analysis.

In response to the inadequacy of the collected data, FSIS is taking a proactive approach by commissioning an independent study.

The study, designed by a team of experts, aims to generate the necessary data for a thorough analysis of the impact of increased line speeds on worker safety in NSIS establishments. The time frame for this study will extend the TLTs for up to an additional 90 days.

FSIS will communicate specific requirements to the six swine establishments participating in the TLT during the extended period.

These requirements include adherence to outlined worker safety measures. The agency is committed to transparency and will provide further communication to the public once the details of the study, including its duration, are finalized.

The USDA’s move underscores the delicate balance between operational efficiency in swine slaughter facilities and the paramount importance of ensuring the safety and well-being of workers.

As the study takes shape, it is poised to offer valuable insights that will inform any future rulemaking, fostering a safer and more informed environment for both workers and the swine industry at large.

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