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Meatpacking – The Hidden Dangers

Written by Ankin Law Office

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has called meatpacking the most dangerous industry in the country, resulting in illnesses and injuries to over 40,000 workers each year. With such a high risk of illness and injury to workers, a workers compensation attorney is often required to handle legal issues concerning medical expenses and lost wages.

The Meatpacking Industry

The U.S. meatpacking industry employs over 100,000 workers. In 2015, the Bureau of Labor Statistics called the meatpacking industry the most dangerous in the country. Reports indicate a high risk of workplace injuries due to knife-wielding workers who stand for long periods on fast-moving lines with factory floors that are dark, loud and slippery. Meatpacking workers are exposed daily to unbearably hot or bitter cold workplace conditions. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports show that over 40,000 workers in the meatpacking industry suffer severe illnesses and injuries each year, but many may go unreported due to workers who fear retaliation or job loss. In some cases, workers reported financial incentives from employers if injury claims were not filed with a workers’ compensation attorney.

OSHA Reports

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) describes the meatpacking industry as a high-risk workplace. A workers compensation attorney is familiar with OSHA safety laws and reports that show serious injuries to meatpacking workers including:

  • Knife Cuts – Knives are the major causes of cuts and abrasions to the hands and torso of meatpacking workers. The hand knife, the most commonly used tool,  causes the most frequent and severe accidents.
  • Falls – Slip-and-fall accidents represent some of the most serious injuries due to floor surfaces that are often wet and slippery from animal blood, leaking pipes and inadequate drainage.
  • Back Injuries – Serious back injuries are common among workers in the shipping department. Employees, called “luggers,” are required to carry or lug carcasses weighing up to 300 pounds on their shoulders to trucks or rail cars for shipment.
  • Repetitive Stress Injuries – Cumulative trauma disorders are widespread among workers in the meatpacking industry. Carpal tunnel syndrome is the disorder most commonly reported, followed by tendonitis, arthritis, and severe hand, elbow and shoulder pain.
  • Toxic Substances – Meatpacking workers are often exposed to toxic substances in the workplace. These include: Ammonia, used as a cleaning compound; carbon dioxide, used in dry ice for packing; and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), used for wrapping meat.