McDonald’s Working Conditions Are Hazardous, Employees Claim

McDonald’s workers in 19 cities have filed more than two dozen health and safety complaints with federal regulators over hazardous work conditions at the fast food chain, indicating that they are frequently burned, denied reasonable treatment and that inadequate safety measures have caused them to suffer work injuries

The complaints were filed on Monday with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and a number of state health and safety agencies nationwide, alleging that the unsafe McDonald’s working conditions are common throughout the country, with most workers being burned at some point.

The filings are part of a campaign by Fight for $15, an organization seeking to raise the national minimum wage to $15 an hour. In a press release (PDF) announcing the complaints, Fight for $15 indicates that it discovered the safety problems through contacts with McDonald’s workers nationwide.

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“In our first meeting, there were 50 workers in a room in New York City who held up their arms covered with burns and said ‘this is what it means to be a fast-food worker,’” Kendal Fells, Organizing Director for Fight for $15, said in the press release. “As this campaign has spread to cities across the country, it’s become painfully clear that unsafe conditions go hand in hand with the industry’s low wages.”

The complaints include allegations that the restaurants often have missing or empty first-aid kits, and that many McDonald’s workers report that even when suffering third degree burns due to exposure to hot grills and boiling grease, they were told to keep working. Some say they were told to treat the burns with condiments, such as mustard and mayonnaise.

Workers have called on the Department of Labor to investigate their claims.

Burns are Common for McDonald’s Workers

The complaints were filed on the same day that the National Council for Occupational Safety and health (National COSH) released the findings of a new survey (PDF) that found 87% of fast-food workers reported suffering a work-related injury in the last year.

National COSH officials say it appears to be the first time anyone has ever conducted a safety survey of the nation’s fast food workers.

The survey was conducted by Hart Research Associates and involved 1,426 adult fast food workers, including 1,091 who worked in kitchens.

According to the findings, 79% of fast food workers were burned in the last year, and 67% suffered cuts, the two most common injuries. Nearly half of the workers who were burned said that the injuries occurred due to pressure from managers to work more rapidly or due to understaffing. One-in-five of those burned said that both problems were a factor in their burns.

According to the survey, 54% of workers said pressure to work too quickly, understaffing, or both were serious problems.

“Fast food workers are like everyone else: They come to work to earn a living and support their families,” Mary Vogel, Executive Director of National COSH, said at a media briefing (PDF) on Monday. “Nobody comes to work to get injured. Nobody comes to work to get burned. Certainly, nobody comes to work so they can get handed a packet of mayonnaise when they do get burned – instead of real first aid and real medical treatment.”


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