Illinois consumers might be more aware of worker safety the next time they pick up a pack of chicken at the supermarket. A new report revealed that slaughterhouses have recently made safety improvements, but information regarding accidents on the job are still not entirely clear. This is because worker injuries tend to go underreported.
A 2005 report from the Government Accountability Office sharply criticized the meat industry’s safety standards for its slaughterhouse workers. Over 150 industry workers suffered fatal injuries at work between the years of 2004 and 2013. Aside from these deaths, slaughterhouse workers also have the highest rate of injuries among the manufacturing industry.
The GAO suspects that officials in the meat industry attempt to keep the already high injury rate low through a variety of means. For instance, sanitary workers who have had fingers and limbs severed or have even died on the job are often left out of these numbers because they tend to be employed as contractors rather than employees. Actual employees are also discouraged from being treated for job-related pain. Clinics that operate on-site at slaughterhouses tend to encourage injured workers who are in pain to return to work without seeking additional help. In one such instance, one worker had to report to the nursing station nearly 100 times before anyone would grant a referral to a physician.
Safety conditions might have made slight improvements in the meat industry, but current rates of worker injury are still startling high. Worker advocates point out that the industry’s strategies for reducing the reported number of accidents on the job are hindering real progress in worker safety. Until industry leaders make any real changes, Illinois workers will still be subjected to potentially life-altering injuries that require workers’ compensation benefits in order to truly recover.
Source: NPR, “Why We Don’t Know How Many Workers Are Injured At Slaughterhouses. Here’s Why“, Grant Gerlock, May 25, 2016
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