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Meat Packing Safety

Meat packing is one of the most safety intensive fields of food manufacturing. That's because it is one of the most hazardous industries in the United States. With a rate three times higher than that of other manufacturing industries meatpacking has had the highest injury rate of any industry in the country for five consecutive years. For example, workers can be seriously injured by moving animals prior to stunning, and by stunning guns that may prematurely or inadvertently discharge while they try to still the animal.

Meat Packing Protective Measures | Meat Packing Safety Signs & Labels

Potential Hazards In The Meat Packing Industry

The following defines the safety problems in meat packing facilities.

  • Knife cuts
    • Accidental knife cuts are major causes of cuts and abrasions to the hands and the torso.
    • The hand knife remains the most commonly used tool and causes the most frequent and severe accidents.
    • Workers have been cut by other workers as they remove their knives from a slab of meat.
  • Falls
    • Falls represent one of the greatest sources of serious injuries in the meat packing industry.
    • Floor surfaces throughout meat packing plants tend to be wet and slippery
    • Animal fat, when allowed to accumulate on floors to dangerous levels, and blood, leaking pipes, and poor drainage are the major contributors to treacherously slippery floors
  • Back Injuries
    • Back injuries are more common among workers in the shipping department
    • Workers can be asked to carry up to 300 lbs to trucks or railcars
  • Exposure to Toxic Substances
    • ammonia
      • Ammonia leaks can occur in the refrigeration pipes carrying ammonia to coolers
      • Ammonia is intensely irritating to the mucous membranes, eyes, and skin.
      • Ammonia can produce headaches, salivation, burning of the throat, perspiration, nausea, and vomiting
    • carbon monoxide
      • A colorless, odorless gas that is undetectable by the unaided senses an is often mixed with other gases
      • Workers are exposed to this gas when smokehouses are improperly ventilated
      • Workers may experience headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, and death
    • polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
      • This chemical is found in food wrap film
      • When PVC is heated, thermal degradation products irritate workers' eyes, nose, and throat or cause more serious problems such as wheezing, chest pains, coughing, difficulty in breathing, nausea, muscle pains, chills, and fever
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders
    • Repetitive work results in tendinitis (inflammation of a tendon sheath) , and carpal tunnel syndrome
    • Most often caused by repeated bending of the wrist combined with gripping, squeezing, and twisting motions
    • Symptoms include swelling in the wrist joint causes pressure on a nerve in the wrist
    • If workers ignore these symptoms, sometimes misdiagnosed as arthritis, they could experience permanent weakness and numbness in the hand coupled with severe pain in the hands, elbows, and shoulders
  • Exposure to Infectious Disease
    • Brucellosis
      • Brucellosis is caused by a bacterium and is transmitted by the handling of cattle or swine
      • Results in a constant or recurring fever, headaches, weakness, joint pain, night sweats, and loss of appetite
    • Erysipeloid
      • Erysipeloid is caused by bacteria
      • It is transmitted by infection of skin puncture wounds, scratches and abrasions
      • Erysipeloid causes redness and irritation around the site of infection and can spread to the blood stream and lymph nodes
    • Leptospirosis
      • Leptospirosis is caused by bacteria
      • It is transmitted through direct contact with infected animals or through water, moist soil, or vegetation contaminated by the urine of infected animals
      • Symptoms include muscular aches, eye infections, fever, vomiting, chills, and headaches occur, and kidney and liver damage
    • Dermatophytosis
      • Dermatophytosis is a fungal disease and is transmitted by contact with the hair and skin of infected persons and animals
      • This disease is also known as ringworm
      • Dermatophytosis causes the hair to fall out and small yellowish cup-like crusts to develop on the scalp

These are the major problems. Go to the next page, Meat Packing Protective Measures, for solutions recommended by OSHA. Also see the page on | Meat Packing Safety Signs & Labels.

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