Working in a meatpacking plant remains a hazardous occupation

Injury and illness rates in meatpacking plants across the country, including Nebraska, are not as high as they were two decades ago, but they remain significantly higher than the national average for work-related injuries. Although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has strict safety regulations in place, serious injuries continue to occur. Despite proof that the work environments in the meat industry are now safer than ever before, analysts say there is room for improvement.

Regardless of your position in the meatpacking facility, there will be dangers to face. Whether the risks you face include excessive noise, harmful chemicals, repetitive motions or equipment with dangerous moving parts, a thorough knowledge of the risks and the necessary safety precautions are crucial. Your best chance to return home safely each day is to take responsibility for your own safety and comply with prescribed protocols.

What makes your job so dangerous?

Safety training is essential, even if you have heard it all before. Regardless of how long you have done this job, you will always have to face the following hazards:

  • Repetitive motion injuries: Constant twisting, gripping, reaching and pushing can leave you with carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis and other repetitive stress injuries. Intense exertion and strain cause cumulative trauma that increases the risks of falls from slips or trips, and cuts or other sharp-object injuries.
  • Fatigue: Working with cutters, choppers and band saws requires alertness, and taking frequent breaks will allow you to come back fresh and focus on the task. You could ask your supervisor to rotate workers from different workstations to limit bodily wear and tear from continuous heavy lifting and cutting with knives or operating band saws.
  • Complacency: While most injuries to young workers result from inexperience, complacency is the common cause of injuries to seasoned workers. Beware of becoming numb to your physical surroundings in which you have worked for years without suffering injuries or illness.
  • Time constraints: Excessive pressure to speed up the production line can lead to you taking shortcuts, which could have devastating consequences. Focusing on speed can jeopardize your ability to remain alert of other dangers, such as mobile equipment and using the proper lockout/tagout procedures when cleaning or clearing blockages in the machines you operate.
  • Personal protective equipment: Complacency and time constraints often cause workers to work without the necessary PPE. Make sure you protect your hands, eyes and ears to avoid adverse long-term consequences.

Compliance with safety protocols can prevent amputation injuries, hearing loss, eye damage and musculoskeletal disorders.

Accidents happen

You can do no more than take precautions to avoid injuries, but there is no getting away from the fact that accidents continue to occur in meatpacking facilities. If you are the victim of a work-related injury or illness, you might find comfort in knowing that an experienced workers' compensation attorney can help you to obtain benefits from the Nebraska workers' compensation insurance program.

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