U.S. Meat Workers Face High Risk of Serious Injury

October 17, 2018

Illness and injury rates for U.S. meat workers are more than two and a half times higher than the national average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Despite Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) records showing that amputations occur twice a week on average, the government is considering lifting speed restrictions on pig processing lines. Many meat workers fear that this proposed rule will further jeopardize their safety and lead to more injuries.

Proposed Rule to Lift Speed Restrictions

Proponents of the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System (NSIS) point out that meat worker injury rates have declined over the last 25 years, following a joint effort between the government and the meat industry to improve training and guidelines. Together, the bodies created voluntary OSHA-approved ergonomic guidelines for the industry. Spokesman for the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) credits efforts such as this for the 2016 all-time low for industry injury and illness rates. He also says that companies in the meat and poultry industry meet up several times a year to share best practices with each other to improve the safety of their facilities.

However, a representative from the Food Integrity Campaign opines that the proposed rule poses a threat to workers. Many workers are left disabled after suffering catastrophic injuries while working at meat plants due to the pressure to work at an unreasonably fast pace. A former OSHA administrator expressed his opposition to the proposed rule, predicting that allowing employers to increase line speed without adding more workers will undoubtedly result in increased worker injuries and illnesses.

Government Regulation is Lacking

Although underreporting remains an issue, OSHA reports that there are at least 17 serious incidents (those involving hospitalizations, amputations or loss of an eye) per month in U.S. meat facilities. There are OSHA standards governing the meat packing industry including the regulation of noise, ventilation and personal protective equipment (PPE). However, OSHA does not regulate line speed and has in the past denied requests by labor rights groups to set a lower line speed standard.

Common Meat Worker Injuries

Many worry that the proposed rule would put workers in danger. In an interview, one meat worker revealed that all his co-workers have suffered an injury at some point and that the line speeds are already too fast as it is. Other workers report being ignored, denied treatment or fired when they reported workplace injuries. Common injuries among meat workers include:

  • Amputations
  • Broken bones
  • Burns
  • Caught in/between injuries
  • Crush injuries
  • Cuts/lacerations
  • Musculoskeletal injuries
  • Repetitive motion injuries

Workers’ Compensation for Philadelphia Meat Workers

If you were injured while working at a meat facility in Philadelphia, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits under the Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Act. To ensure your eligibility, report your injuries in writing to your employer within 120 days. Under the Act, you may collect workers’ compensation benefits for your medical bills, wage loss and vocational rehabilitation. If you suffered serious injuries such as amputations, face/head/ neck disfigurement or eye/hearing loss, you may also be able to collect specific loss benefits.

Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Help U.S. Meat Workers Obtain Compensation for Their Injuries

For a free consultation, contact a Philadelphia workers’ compensation lawyer at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.CWe can help protect your rights and recover the compensation you deserve. Call us at 888-PITT-LAW or complete our online contact form to arrange a free consultation.

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