The meatpacking industry provides a vital service to consumers, but for those employed in the field, it remains a hazardous occupation. Those employed in the meatpacking industry are more than three times more likely to be injured on the job. Informational materials, such as safety publications and posted signs, are an essential part of promoting safe workplace practices and reducing the risk of serious injuries.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) tracks incidences of injury or fatality across American industries and provides training and education for employers. Despite improvements in the meatpacking industry, OSHA data shows that there is an average of 17 major incidents each month in this occupation. Severe or major incidents are classified as injuries that result in amputations, hospitalizations, or loss of an eye. This raises alarming questions about how safety practices are being implemented despite improvements.
Common injuries found in this field are due to the type of tools and equipment used in processing meat products. Knife injuries remain one of the top hazards for workers who are using them to debone carcasses. Technological improvements have reduced the use of hand knives but for those using them, hazards include wounds to the hands, arms, and torso. Machines used in lieu of hand tools also bring their own array of hazards that can result in severed fingers or wounds to extremities. The use of machine guards and lockout procedures are safety practices that help reduce serious injuries for machine operators.
Falls are also an ongoing risk for workers in the industry. Floors in meat processing plants accumulate slippery animal residue and falls on hard surfaces result in back and head injuries. Maintenance and cleaning of floor surfaces is an essential safety practice that can help minimize this risk. Meat processing workers are also exposed to a variety of substances that can cause illness or injury. Toxic products used for cleaning include ammonia, which can have serious effects on breathing, along with one’s skin and eyes, if not properly stored or ventilated. Workers are also potentially exposed to infectious diseases in animals, as well as bacteria. Another common injury is repetitive stress from machine and cutting operations, which can result in long-term hand and spinal conditions.
Employers have a duty to stringently follow all safety guidelines and ensure staff are trained on best practices. Occupational safety resources are readily available to employers from OSHA and include a variety of practices from personal protective equipment and machine guards to safety training and education.
If you have been injured in a workplace accident, the Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Gross & Kenny, LLP can help. We will protect your rights and obtain the compensation and care you need. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients across Pennsylvania. For a free consultation, contact us online or call us at 215-512-1500.