The Occupational Accident Attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers Represent Injured Meat and Poultry Processing Plant Workers
Chicago area Meat and Poultry Plant Workers process meats using their hands and hand tools to cut, trim, and package an assortment of meats, poultry, and seafood. Typically, these food processors produce products to sell the local community. However, some plants process foods to package and deliver across the nation and globe.
As a part of the job, the Food Processing Worker must operate complex machinery to produce a variety of food products that might be dried, mixed, grounded, sliced, frozen, baked, chilled, cooked, packed, or a combination of processes to complete the packaging. Other workers oversee monitoring the process to determine the quality of the product before it leaves the factory. Their duties include weighing and checking raw materials before being added to the process. Others oversee maintaining a germ-free work environment that remains both hygienic and sanitized.
In recent years, there has been an increased demand for workers in the meat and poultry processing food industry. Even so, the opportunity for advancement in this sector is significantly slower on average compared to other manual labor occupations. However, in the years ahead, as the population in America grows, there will be a significant increase in the demand for meat and poultry products that are packaged as heat-to-eat or ready-to-eat foods. As the industry grows, there is a significant rising need to automate the system and reduce the number of employees to minimize the potential of injuries including cuts, lacerations, RMIs (Repetitive Movement Injuries), along with muscle and ligaments and sprains and strains.
Typical Responsibilities and Duties
Food process workers are responsible for performing a variety of duties throughout their shift. Some of these responsibilities include:
- Check, maintain and control mechanized equipment that processes the food.
- Monitor temperature gauges for cooked products to obtain optimal, safe products for consumption.
- Maintain machinery to ensure it remains tidy, clean and organized.
- Pull contaminated or malfunctioning equipment from the production line to maintain a sanitized environment.
- Maintain the production line to ensure there are adequate raw materials to avoid downtime.
A Dangerous Occupation
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, meat and poultry packing plants "have the highest rate of repeated-trauma disorders." The average number of repeated trauma disorders in the private industry is just over 33 cases for every 10,000 workers. However, for meat and poultry processing plant workers, that number rises to more than 921 cases out of every 10,000 full-time workers. This number represents serious injuries involving one out of every ten employees processing meat, poultry, and seafood.
On average, these employees work a minimum of 40.5 hours every week. Their work week is only slightly less than other manufacturing jobs in the private sector where employees work on average 40.8 hours every week.
The potential of serious strain injuries to the worker's elbows, wrists, and hands can be exacerbated by spending long hours every day involved in physically demanding, repetitive work. Also, meat processing workers tend to stand for extended periods of time and often have to lift heavy objects or use tools and machinery that grind, slicer and cut the slaughtered animal into usable pieces.
Some meat processing companies maintain a safe environment by following ergonomic programs to minimize the challenging work conditions and comply with OSHA and state safety regulations. These efforts help minimize work-related injuries and prevent accidents.
Meat Processing Plant Hazards
Meat and Poultry Processing Plant Workers face serious concerns over their safety and health while working on the job. Many of these problems involve chemical exposure, slip, and fall accidents, ergonomic issues, and amputation. To make matters worse, the fast-paced necessity for getting the job done creates a stressful work environment that easily leads injuries of various degrees of severity.
To protect the employees from serious harm, plant owners, managers, and supervisors are required by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) to establish and enforce safety controls. These efforts should include a safety structure to handle dangerous equipment when emergencies arise. The owner must provide every worker necessary PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) any time they will operate heavy machinery or work in dangerous areas. Even so, serious accidents still occur, nearly daily. Some of these problems include:
- Machinery Hazard – Food processing workers handle a variety of mechanized equipment that cleans, processes, and packages food. Using these dangerous machines bring with it serious hazards and risks. According to OSHA, more than 700 workers in the US die every year in food processing machine-related accidents. This number does not include the 2500 or more workers injured every year. Common problems with machinery include:
- Guard Issues – Guards must be provided on every piece of machinery to protect the worker from any hazardous component that is exposed and moving.
- LO/TO (Lock Out/Tag Out) – Electrical components and mechanized equipment must have the ability to shut down properly, be de-energized, and can lock the user out while it is being maintained and serviced. These safety features can eliminate the potential of the worker or repairer from being electrocuted, injured or burned.
- Excessive Noises – Grows of machinery and large equipment can produce excessive noise levels that may prevent necessary communication between workers to maintain a safe working environment.
- Warnings, Labels, and Signage – Many Meat and Poultry Processing Plants function using conveyors to keep the production line moving at a specific pace. However, supervisors and workers must enforce developed standardized safety procedures and associated warning and danger signs that communicate how serious the hazard could be if caught in the machinery. Responsible safety features include danger signs, warning signs, and caution signs that imply that severe injury or death will likely occur if caught in the machine.
- Exposure to Ammonia and Other Chemicals – According to OSHA, there were nearly 1300 injuries caused by exposure to harmful chemicals including ammonia that used extensively in the processing of meat and poultry. Elevated levels of ammonia can cause corrosive reactions that damage the eyes, lungs, and skin. Ammonia fumes in an enclosed environment can be highly explosive and flammable at concentrated levels of just 15%.
- Slips, Trips, and Falls – Data from OSHA says that 4500 workers in the meat and poultry processing industry suffered injuries during slip, trip and fall events in the workplace. To minimize the potential dangers, supervisors must ensure that the workroom floor remains clean and dry when possible and provides a dry standing place, like a floormat, when the processing area is wet.
- A Lack of Adequate Ventilation – The processing plant must have both general and localized ventilation systems to remove harmful contaminants from the airspace where workers are present. Adequate ventilation solutions include the use of fans, windows, and roof ventilators.
Every supervisor, manager and plant owner must ensure that all equipment on the property is routinely inspected and repaired when required. Maintaining a safe environment is essential to minimize the potential dangers involved in a processing plant. Quick action when cleaning up spilled liquids can prevent falls. Providing a washing sink to wash away dangerous materials and chemical on the skin and eyes is cruicial to protect the employee. Using the sink can prevent serious injuries in emergency situations when the worker is exposed to harmful chemicals or comes in contact with potentially infectious materials like raw poultry and meat.
Meat and Poultry Processing Plant Workers' Wages
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016, data concerning the employment facts of the previous year, 1370 Meat and Poultry Processing Plant Workers were working in the Chicago, Naperville and Arlington Heights metropolitan area. On average, Meat and Poultry Processing Plant Workers in northeastern Illinois earn $26,910 every year (mean wage), which is $12.94 per hour. The wage is significantly higher than the national average. See Chart
Food Processing Plant Fatalities and Injuries
A study released by Emory University revealed that workers in the food industry have a 60% higher incident rate of suffering an occupational illness or injury compared all other industries. Injured food processing workers were more than twice as likely to require time off to recover than those working non-food jobs. Some of the serious problems associated with food processing workers include:
- Case 1: August 2012 – OSHA cites Tyson Foods after a worker dies at a processing plant. In August 2012, OSHA hit Tyson Foods with proposed fines of $104,000 after a Dakota City worker died at a food processing facility. The federal agency cited the company for "seven safety violations" including ineffective equipment inspections that were detailed as a willful violation for "failing to make necessary modifications to the worker safety protection process through the inspections." Other violations included a failure "to provide protective equipment for working with chemicals, use tags when lockout devices are not available for equipment, and use suitable energy isolation devices for the work environment."
- Case 2: July 2014 – An Atlanta Georgia food processing worker for Kellogg's fell off a ladder at work and died one week later. The 51-year-old employee started exhibiting problems with breathing after the fall. It was determined that the worker had suffered a neck fracture. Surgeons attempted to repair the worker's injuries, but when complications arose, the procedure was stopped. OSHA investigated the incident.
- Case 3: California – A food processing plant worker overseeing the operation of machinery was killed after becoming entrapped inside the facility's large steam pressure cooker. The victim died from thermal burns. The 62-year-old male worker was inside the pressure cooker completing his tasks of placing movable crates of can fish into the area to be cooked under pressure. A co-worker closed the pressure cooker and activated the machinery before realizing they could not account for the worker. The coworkers turned the pressure cooker off, opened the outlet, and discovered the victim dead inside. While the employer had written safety programs, the training "did not include recognition of improper procedures to use in confined spaces.
Remaining safe in a dangerous work environment, like a food processing plant, can be difficult for workers. Because of that, supervisors, coworkers, and managers must also take effective steps to develop, implement, and enforce strict safety policies and procedures that ensure the health and well-being of every worker.
Some injured employees have taken the next step and contacted a personal injury attorney to handle the worker's compensation claim. The efforts of their attorney working on the client's behalf can help ensure that the family receives the monetary recover they deserve for their injuries, wrongful death, or damages. Typically, a skillful law firm is necessary to represent the injured victim because these cases are highly complex and involve comprehensive Illinois tort law.
We Can Assist You in Filing Your Compensation Claim
Our attorneys help injured Meat and Poultry Processing Plant Workers obtain compensation under the IL Worker's Compensation Act and through civil lawsuits. We provide Free Case Reviews and a No-Win/No Fee Guarantee.
If you have been injured in a job-related accident or suffered an illness or exposure, you are likely entitled to receive workers compensation. However, our legal team can help you determine if you are also entitled to receive additional monetary recovery from third parties as well. Our lawyers will do everything possible to ensure you receive maximum value for your claim. Our work includes exploring every legal option including how to prove a third party personal injury case is relevant to your compensation entitlement. While you might be limited in the amount your family can receive through worker's compensation, a personal injury claim for compensation has no limit.
With legal representation, the reputable attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers (888-424-5757) will provide immediate services without you needing to make an upfront payment. Your fees for legal services are postponed until the end of your case because our personal injury law firm accepts all compensation cases through contingency fee agreements.
This agreement delays payment of legal fees until the law firm has successfully resolves your claim through a negotiated out of court settlement or by winning a jury trial award. We guarantee that if we do not win, you owe us nothing!