Nebraska employees in the meat processing industry work in extremely hazardous conditions for many hours every day. If you are one of them, you might also endure chronic pain from the repetitive nature of your job in an attempt to provide your family with an acceptable quality of life. Sadly, you and many of your co-workers might fear dismissal if you should report your injuries.
You might not realize that the law and occupational safety agencies are on your side. Even though most of the pain you suffer is not as visible as a broken bone or a laceration, you have the right to seek medical care and claim the costs of any treatment from your employer's workers' compensation insurance provider.
Hazards in slaughterhouses
Under federal and state laws, your employer must ensure that your work environment is free of known hazards and that it will not jeopardize your safety and health. However, many business owners in this industry prioritize production and profits over employee safety, despite the fact that they know that safer alternatives that can prevent injuries exist. The following hazards are likely par for the course during any work shift at a slaughterhouse:
- Repetitive stress: The typical frantic pace and frenzy of each eight-hour shift in this environment leave most workers with severely painful backs, shoulders, arms, wrists and hands. Furthermore, standing on a hard surface for eight hours without frequent breaks takes a severe toll on the feet and legs of workers. Every line worker often repeats the same motion over and over, using dangerous equipment. When knives go blunt during the shift, there is no stopping to sharpen them, requiring workers to exert even more power to get the job done.
- Line speed: Most meat processing plants operate non-stop for 24 hours every day of the week. Thousands of animals travel down the line every day, at speeds regulated by federal sanitation laws and not safety regulations. Workers say the pressure to do their jobs at the required unrelenting pace is the cause of most injuries. Some other industries allow workers to shut down and stop the line in circumstances that become too dangerous. In slaughterhouses, nothing stops production, and fear of reprisal typically overshadows pain.
- Unreported injuries: Several reasons exist for the fact that many injuries go unreported. Some workers say that supervisors remind them frequently that it would be no problem to replace them, and undocumented workers face threats of deportation if they report injuries. Supervisors often receive bonuses for keeping the number of reported injuries down because it limits insurance costs and avoids penalties for safety violations. Line-workers may even receive treats like staff barbecues if they do not report injuries.
Learn about your rights
If these occupational hazards are similar to those that you face every day, you may find comfort in learning that help is available. An experienced Nebraska workers' compensation attorney can help you to get the necessary medical treatment. He or she can also support and guide you through the complicated claims process to obtain benefits, which may include wage replacement. Workers' compensation insurance covers repetitive stress injuries, and it may pay for all your medical expenses and even your travel costs to and from doctors or hospitals.