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How The Observer did this investigation

Observer reporters interviewed more than 200 poultry workers across the Southeast, along with regulators, workplace safety experts, lawyers and company officials. They reviewed thousands of pages of OSHA documents, academic studies, workers' compensation cases and rarely-examined company injury logs. They analyzed government databases with information about all workplace safety enforcement nationwide, as well as injury rates reported by plants.

They also toured three poultry plants in the Carolinas and Virginia and obtained records of ambulance calls to some plants.

Companies are required to keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses that result in medical treatment beyond first aid, days away from work, loss of consciousness and death.

To analyze underreporting, the newspaper interviewed injured House of Raeford workers and compared their accounts to company injury records from 2003 to early 2007. The Observer counted cases as unreported only if it was able to confirm that the workers received medical attention beyond first aid or had time off work. The newspaper also asked a top OSHA record-keeping expert to assess whether the cases should have been recorded.

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