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Meat industry workers suffer job injuries from repetitive motions

On behalf of of Frederick & Hagle posted in Industrial Workers’ Accidents on Wednesday, August 24, 2016.

Sitting down to a supper of chicken or beef might not cause many people in Illinois to wonder about the conditions in which the animal was killed. For the employees of slaughterhouses, however, it may be impossible to avoid doing so. Job injuries occur at an alarmingly high rate in this industry, and they are not necessarily all the result of industrial accidents. Instead, repetitive actions and an environment that focuses on the end result — not the employee — puts workers in dangerous positions.

A former official from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration believes that part of the problem is the very model on which the meat business is built. In order to produce a higher quantity that yields higher profits, worker safety must be sacrificed. Data from OSHA in 2014 demonstrated that processing employees who work with pork and beef experience injuries from repetitive motions at a rate of seven times higher than other industries. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that in one processing plant alone, over 75 percent of employees suffered from the same abnormal nerve condition in one or both hands.

Most slaughterhouse workers are required to work at excessive speeds with few — if any — breaks. Working conditions also tend to be quite cold. As animal carcasses come along the work line, workers are tasked with disassembling and cutting the expected cuts. Workers perform these same cuts and motions again and again throughout their shifts, while others are expected to bag the cuts of meats, which also requires the use of repetitive motions.

The meat industry has largely disputed these claims, calling injured workers and the causes of their injuries nothing more than myths. However, calling job injuries myths does not magically erase them or the long-lasting pain and suffering that workers must deal with as a result. Instead, workers’ compensation benefits are usually the best option for people in Illinois who have been injured as a result of their job duties and who require medical care and treatment as a result.

Source: NPR, “Working ‘The Chain,’ Slaughterhouse Workers Face Lifelong Injuries“, Peggy Lowe, Aug. 11, 2016

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