Meat Processing Still a Jungle for Workers

A new government report from the General Accounting Office (GAO) has found that injury and illness rates have declined in the meat and poultry slaughtering and processing industry even as hazardous conditions remain. The rates declined from an estimated 9.8 cases per 100 full-time workers in 2004 to 5.7 in 2013. However, the injury rate for meat processing workers remains higher than the rest of the manufacturing industry.

Additionally, injuries in the meat industry are also likely to be underreported for a variety of reasons. Some sanitary workers who clean machinery have suffered amputations or fatalities, but their numbers are not always counted with meat and poultry industry data if they work for third party contractors. Some on-site medical clinics encourage workers to return to the line without seeing a doctor. The GAO found one case in which a worker made more than 90 visits to a nursing station before being referred to a physician. Finally, meat and poultry workers often are not native speakers, or are immigrants or refugees. They may lack the language skills to report injuries or fear reprisals if they do. Read the full report here.