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Meatpacking Plant Workers at Risk in Iowa [infographic]

January 08, 2021By Niko Pothitakis

Several hazards can develop in Iowa meatpacking facilities, putting workers at risk of injury or illness. There are conditions and processes that present a variety of physical and biological hazards, but employees and employers can take steps to reduce the risk of injury and create a safer workplace.

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Dangers in Meatpacking Plants

Common meatpacking factory accidents and injuries include:

  • Injuries caused by cutting tools
  • Wet or icy floors that can cause slip and fall accidents
  • Dismemberment from cutting and grinding equipment
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome and other types of strain from repetitive motion
  • Back injuries caused by heavy lifting
  • Crushing injuries from falling animal carcasses

Safe work practices can help minimize the risk of injuries. Some avoidable hazards could be violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s regulations.

Biological Hazards

In addition to the risk of standard workplace injuries, a unique risk factor in meatpacking plants is exposure to biological agents in these facilities. Meat processing workers are exposed to various biological agents when handling freshly slaughtered meat and working around ill animals.

Depending on the type of bacteria or disease, some conditions that workers may experience as a result of exposure in the workplace may include flu, skin infections, or gastrointestinal infections. In rare cases, workers may also develop more serious infections such as meningitis, pneumonia, and blood infections (sepsis). In addition, meatpacking workers may be exposed to the COVID-19 virus from infected workers.

For reasons that aren’t clear to medical professionals, meat processing workers are also at a greater risk of developing lung cancer. This may be due to their frequent exposure to cancer-causing chemicals or viruses present in many processing and packaging operations.

Meatpacking plants should have protocols in place to prevent injuries and illness. Hazardous biological agents in meat slaughter and processing plants make it necessary to provide workers with sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE), which can include goggles, facemasks, and waterproof gloves. Proper training is also important to make sure workers follow strict safety protocols in the workplace to minimize exposure.

Workers who suspect that unsafe conditions are putting them at risk can file complaints with OSHA. Additionally, injured workers can file a work injury claim to recover compensation for their medical expenses, a portion of their missed wages, and a settlement for any permanent disabilities.