Danger in the meat processing industry

If you work in the meatpacking or processing industries, you expect to work around blood. However, most employees don't expect it to be their own.

Yet the meat processing industry is fraught with dangers to workers, as was documented in a 2005 report by the General Accounting Office. Their report deemed that meat and poultry processers "face hazardous working conditions that put their health in jeopardy," as one Washington senator stated. To compound matters, companies may "actually discourage . . . workers from reporting injuries," she claimed.

One former industry worker in Nebraska participated in a press conference via telephone recently. The intent was for labor advocates to openly discuss a GAO report that said the rate of on-the-job injuries and illnesses was dropping, yet were also underreported.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that the approximately 526,000 poultry and meat processing workers struggle with hazards like pathogen and chemical exposures, trauma from tools and machines and repetitive stress injuries.

From another perspective, a senior advocacy advisor at Oxfam America stated workers were pushed "beyond their limits by trying to maintain or even increase production. Oxfam recently discovered that almost a quarter of a million workers in the poultry industry have to complete entire shifts without bathroom breaks.

Other findings of the GAO were that not only were employees afraid to mention illnesses and injuries because they thought they might be fired but that companies had financial motivation to under-list those occurrences.

An attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center found that many plants contract for employee labor with intermediary agencies, giving themselves a buffer between the company and the agency, stating "[t]he contracting model is becoming more and more widespread."

If you get injured in an accident at a meat processing plant, understanding your options is the first step toward seeking compensation.

Source: CBS MoneyWatch, "Just how dangerous is meat and poultry packing?," Kate Gibson, May 27, 2016

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