Biological hazards associated with the meatpacking industry

The meatpacking industry in Omaha provides residents with gainful employment, enabling them to take care of their families. Without this industry, the entire state of Nebraska would likely suffer from higher rates of unemployment. Unfortunately, the industry is rife with hazards that could result in significant workplace injuries.

If you work in such an environment, you likely already know the physical hazards. Examples include heavy lifting, equipment injuries, falling objects (carcasses) and constantly slick flooring. However, you may not know that the industry is also full of biological hazards as well.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), packing plant workers may encounter biological hazards while handling freshly slaughtered meat. Such exposure may cause the following workplace illnesses.

  • Skin infections
  • Blood infections
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Pneumonia
  • Influenza
  • Meningitis

Further, OSHA cites methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and other antibiotic-resistant agents as particularly hazardous to worker health. Some specific examples of possible workplace injuries leading to illness include the following.

  • Brucellosis: A bacterial infection causing multiple symptoms (fever, vomiting, etc.) occurs from contact with the meat of infected animals and by breathing infected air.
  • Q fever: This illness is a type of bacterial infection causing workers to suffer muscle aches, fever and other symptoms. Serious infections may result in hepatitis or pneumonia. Workers may develop these illnesses by exposure to infected animals.
  • Livestock-associated MRSA (LA-MRSA): This causes infections in the skin as well as soft tissues and occurs by coming into contact with cattle and pigs.

Workers' compensation is there to cover your needs if you suffer workplace injuries, but it also provides you with compensation if your job makes you ill. If you are experiencing persistent unexplained illnesses, it is wise to discuss your symptoms with a doctor.

Those who are finding it difficult to acquire workers' compensation for workplace injuries or illnesses can find assistance by consulting with an attorney. A lawyer can also help if your workers' comp claim was unsuccessful.

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